What’s the worst that could happen if you occasionally forget to maintain your gutters? Well, quite a few problems can emerge actually. These include:
If the gutters aren’t cleaned regularly, leaves and other kinds of organic debris can accumulate and prevent rainwater from flowing to the downspouts, causing it to overflow. The overflowing water can then seep into your home’s foundation, causing major, costly damage. Water can also make its way to your home’s interior through gaps between the siding panels and windows.
Overflowing water from clogged gutters can spill over onto your siding or back up into your roof, drenching some of your roof’s wooden components, such as the fascia board. Over time, excessive moisture, combined with fungi spores, can cause wood rot. Since wood is the primary material used to build homes, wood rot can be a major issue if left unattended.
How serious an issue is wood rot? Wooden components that have rot should be replaced as soon as possible, along with faulty gutters, by experienced roof and gutter installation contractors.
How fast does wood rot spread? Well, it depends on the type of wood rot. In general, there are three types:
Brown rot – Brown rot or dry rot affects cellulose, the substance that allows wood and other plants to remain upright. As rot slowly breaks down the cellulose, wood shrinks and turns brown until it breaks into cube-shaped bits. Of the three, this is the type of rot that spreads the fastest.
White rot – Wood with white rot has a whitish or light yellow shade and feels spongy. While brown rot affects the cellulose, white rot affects lignin, which performs a similar function. Both types of rot usually thrive in temperatures between 65 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Soft rot – Soft rot spreads slower than the other two types of rot, but it has a higher tolerance for temperature extremes, being able to thrive in temperatures between 0 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Like brown rot, soft rot breaks down wood’s cellulose component, but instead of leaving behind cube-shaped bits, it gives wood a honeycomb-like appearance.
If you see any of the warning signs of rot, have a contractor inspect your home right away. If wood rot starts to affect other parts of your home, it can weaken wooden beams and, in the long term, compromise the structural integrity of your home.
Under the combined weight of accumulated organic debris, your gutters might start to pull apart at the seams, which are the weak point of conventional gutter systems. Seamless gutters don’t have this vulnerability, as they have fewer joints.
The added weight load from leaves can also cause sections of your gutters to sag. The tilted angle can cause water to stagnate in certain sections and create a wet or moist environment that can attract all kinds of pests.
Decaying foliage and organic matter can attract pests. Here are the kinds of pests that are commonly found hiding in gutters:
Rodents – Rats and other rodents hiding in your gutters are just looking for a way to enter your home. They can easily enter your home through tiny holes. Fortunately, you can tell if there are rodents in your gutters—they tend to make a lot of noise when they scurry around inside your gutters. Cleaning your gutters regularly helps keep rodents away.
Bees, hornets and wasps – These insects love moist environments, like that of clogged gutters. The problem with these insects is that their nests can cause sections of your gutters to sag–not to mention, they can be quite territorial and attack anything that approaches their nests. As such, it’s best to let a professional exterminator handle the removal of bees, hornet or wasp nests.
Termites and carpenter ants – Termites are the most problematic pest, from a contractor’s perspective. That’s because these pests eat away wood and could compromise the structural integrity of your home. Carpenter ants don’t eat wood; rather, they burrow their way into wooden structures to make their nests. As such, they can still pose a threat to your home’s structural integrity.
Mosquitoes – Stagnant water trapped in clogged gutters can attract disease-carrying mosquitoes that need a water source to lay their eggs.
Birds – Birds aren’t as harmful as other pests, but they can still damage your gutters. Birds might be tempted to nest in your gutters if they see that it’s filled with twigs and branches, materials they need to build their nest.
Winter-Specific Issues: Ice Dams
Ice dams are a common problem in winter. Icicles hanging from your gutters and ice deposited near the edges of your roof can prevent water from flowing to the drains and cause it to back up and possibly seep into shingles. While several factors can cause dams to form, clogged gutters can increase the risk of ice dam formation.
Aside from routine gutter maintenance, another way to reduce the risk of ice dams is to install heated gutter systems, which feature heating cables that melt ice.
Gutter Accessories That Can Make Maintenance Easier
Gutter maintenance is an essential task, but most homeowners just don’t have the time to clean their gutters often enough. Fortunately, installing gutter accessories can help reduce your gutters’ maintenance needs. The most commonly used accessories are:
Gutter guards – Gutter guards prevent leaves and other kinds of debris from entering and clogging your gutters. Keep in mind that most gutter guards can only reduce, not eliminate, the need for maintenance. The only product that can fully eliminate the need for maintenance is Gutter Helmet®, which comes with a Never Clean Your Gutters Again® guarantee. Gutter Helmet’s patented nose-forward design lets rainwater flow to your gutters while keeping debris out.
Plus, thanks to its durable but lightweight composition, Gutter Helmet can withstand heavy rainfall, snow loads, and strong winds. And thanks to Gutter Helmet’s PermaLife™ finish, you don’t have to worry about repainting your gutter guards. This high-performance paint finish resists fading, chalking and, in extreme cases, corrosion from saltwater or acid rain.
Heated gutter systems – Heated gutter systems are more of a necessity in cold areas. If you’re considering installing Gutter Helmet guards, you can further increase gutter protection by installing the Helmet Heat® ice reduction system. Helmet Heat has a self-regulating heating cable that automatically adjusts its temperature as needed to prevent moisture from freezing.
Helmet Heat is fully compatible with Gutter Helmet. The heating cable is placed under your Gutter Helmet gutter guards, so you don’t have to worry about unsightly roof clips or exposed wires that might ruin your curb appeal.
Installing Seamless Gutters
You might also want to consider installing seamless gutters. Since they don’t have seams, a common weak point in gutter systems, they’re less susceptible to leaks. If you’re considering installing seamless gutters, Barry Best Seamless’ seamless gutters come with a 20-year manufacturer’s warranty that fully covers labor and installation.
The Importance of Hiring an Experienced Contractor
To ensure your gutter replacement is installed properly, make sure only a qualified contractor handles the gutter installation. Remember: always vet a contractor before hiring them. Here’s a vetting tip: The number of years a contractor has been working in the industry should give you a good idea of their level of expertise.