Knowing the most common causes for sagging gutters, a common problem among homeowners, can help you keep them aligned and working properly. Read on to learn what the top causes are and how to keep your gutters from sagging.
Choosing the Wrong Kind of Gutter
Gutters help divert rainwater away from your home’s foundation and roof, but to do that, they would need to support the combined weight of water as well as any debris washed away by the rain. Sections of your gutter system will start to sag if:
- The gutters aren’t the right size – A standard gutter system measures 5 inches long and 6 inches wide while standard downspouts are 2 x 3 inches or 3 x 4 inches in length and width and 3 or 4 inches in diameter. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach in home improvement projects, and gutters are no exception. The correct size of your gutters will ultimately depend on the amount of rainfall your area receives. In general, the higher the slope of your roof is, the faster water slides down, the larger your gutters need to be.
- The gutter material isn’t suited to the area – Of course, even a correctly sized gutter system won’t be able to handle the combined weight load of water and debris if it’s made of flimsy material. Not to mention climate conditions can affect the durability of your gutters. That’s why you should always do your research before choosing a gutter system.
To help you get started, here’s an overview of the common gutter materials and their respective pros and cons:
- Vinyl – Vinyl gutters are the most affordable option on the market. They’re also lightweight, making them easy to install, and resistant to corrosion. However, vinyl gutters aren’t the best choice for areas that experience extreme temperatures throughout the year—vinyl turns brittle in sub-zero temperatures and warp in high temperatures.
Here’s a buying tip: Pay attention to the thickness of vinyl gutters. Cheaply constructed vinyl gutters are thin and prone to leaks.
- Aluminum – Like vinyl, aluminum is lightweight, easy-to-install, and rust-resistant. Thanks to such features, as well as the fact they’re relatively inexpensive, aluminum gutters are a popular choice among homeowners.
- Zinc – If you want more durability, zinc gutters are a good choice. They can last twice as long as aluminum gutters and have minimal maintenance requirements. And unlike most types of gutter systems, zinc gutters become more durable as they age. Over time, a coating or patina forms over zinc, protecting it from the elements. The only downside is zinc gutters are a bit on the pricey side, but given their exceptional durability, they’re well worth the investment.
- Galvanized steel – What if you’re looking for more affordable but durable gutters? Galvanized steel gutters are known for their durability. Galvanized steel is coated with a thin layer of zinc, which usually lasts 5 to 10 years, to prevent rust.
- Galvalume – A more durable option would be galvalume gutters. Galvalume is manufactured by submerging steel in liquid steel into liquid zinc and aluminum to create a material that can, in the right conditions, last up to nine times longer than galvanized steel.
Having trouble picking a gutter material? Consult an experienced gutter contractor.
Flimsy Gutter Support
The gutter hangers or mounting system are just as important as the size and type of the gutter system you install. Without a sturdy support system, sections of your gutters might begin to sag or end up collapsing altogether. As such, homeowners should at least have a basic understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of the different kinds of gutter hangers.
To help you get started, here’s an overview:
- Spikes and ferrules – As the name suggests, this type of gutter hanger uses a spike driven through a metal tube to attach the gutter to the fascia board or the long, narrow board at the edge of your roof. Spikes and ferrules are fairly easy-to-install and relatively inexpensive. However, since metal contracts and expands depending on the temperature, spikes and ferrules can become loose after summer or winter.
- Brackets and straps – Usually paired with half-round-gutters, bracket-and-strap hangers wrap themselves around your gutters, providing sturdy support. The manner in which they’re attached to your gutters also makes them resistant to thermal movement.
- Hidden hangers – This type of hanger is screwed to the fascia board from inside the gutters, which is why homeowners who are quite particular with their facade prefer them.
Shoddy Installation Work
Choosing the wrong kind of gutter or installing wrong size gutters and flimsy gutter hangers—these are rookie installation mistakes that no professional contractor would make. Normally, these are the kind of mistakes that DIYers make.
Aside from using the wrong type of materials, DIYers often space the gutter hangers too far apart. It doesn’t matter if they’re installing the right kind of gutter. If the hangers are spaced more than three feet apart, sections of the gutters will start to sag. Unless you had prior professional experience working on home improvement projects, it’s best to leave gutter installations to the professionals.
Aside from installation issues, maintenance issues could be another reason why your gutters are starting to sag. You should regularly clean your gutters. Otherwise, debris can accumulate in and sections of your gutter might begin to sag under the additional weight load. Not to mention rainwater can overflow out of clogged gutters and spill onto your siding or foundation.
Unfortunately, most homeowners just don’t have the time for tedious but necessary chores such as gutter cleaning. What they can do is hire a gutter-cleaning professional or install gutter guards. Gutter guards prevent leaves and all kinds of debris from entering your gutter system, reducing its maintenance needs.
Keep in mind that gutter guards can only reduce the need for gutter maintenance, not eliminate it. That is except for Gutter Helmet®, the only brand with a Never Clean Your Gutters Again® guarantee.
Cleaning tip: How often should you clean your gutters? Ideally, at least once a week or after every storm or extreme weather event. However, if you have gutter covers installed, gutter cleaning can be less frequent. It’d also be a good idea to have your gutters inspected. Wind-blown debris might have caused cracks to form in your gutters.
Gutter Heating Systems
Aside from gutter covers, what gutter accessories do contractors recommend? If you live in a cold climate, consider installing a gutter heating system to prevent the formation of ice dams at the edges of your roof. Not only do ice dams increase the risk of leaks—the ice on the edges of the roof can prevent thawing ice from reaching the gutters—but they can also cause sections of your gutters to sag. Ice adds additional weight that your gutters might not be able to handle. Gutter heating systems feature a heating cable installed near the edges of your roof to prevent the build-up of ice.
For optimal gutter protection, you might want to consider installing Helmet Heat®. This ice defense system is fully compatible with Gutter Helmet and features a self-regulating heat cable that emits just enough heat to prevent ice formation.
While they’re just accessories, thanks to the convenience they offer, gutter covers are becoming more of a necessity. Aside from gutter guards, what gutter accessories do contractors recommend? Well, contractors would recommend homeowners living in cold areas to install a gutter heating system to prevent the formation of ice dams at the edges of their roofs.
Not only do ice dams increase the risk of leaks—the ice on the edges of the roof can prevent thawing ice from reaching the gutters—but also cause sections of your gutters. Ice adds additional weight that your gutters might not be able to handle. Gutter heating systems use a heating cable installed near the edges of your roof to prevent the build-up of ice.
For optimal gutter protection, you might want to consider installing Helmet Heat® as well. Helmet Heat is fully compatible with Gutter Helmet and uses as a self-regulating heat cable that can adjust its settings depending on the roof’s temperature.
Aside from installing gutter accessories, you can also install seamless gutters. The seams—the area where sections of your gutters meet—are usually the weak points of any gutter system. The gutter joints might start to pull apart from each other if the weight load becomes too heavy.
One more thing: Before hiring a contractor to install your new gutters, make sure to vet them. The number of years they’ve been in the industry should give you a good idea of their level of expertise.