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Monday, October 19, 2009

Maintaining Home: Preparing Gutters and Downspouts for Winter Rains

Summer is over. Leaves are falling, and many are falling into the gutter systems. The purpose of gutters, downspouts and splashguards is to direct water away from the exterior of the home, preventing damage to walls, foundations and landscape materials. If gutters are not maintained and monitored, it can create numerous problems with the home.

The largest problem area with most homes is at the envelope of the home, i.e. the exterior siding and roof. Part of the problem found during inspections is that the home owner does not have the gutter cleaned and monitored on a monthly basis. When the gutter and downspout are full with debris, the water spills over the top of the gutter and can cause damage to the eaves, rafters, siding and quite possibly the home’s foundation.

There are ways to help prevent gutters from being a consistent threat. Some home owners use gutter screens purchased from their local hardware store. Other home owners have gutter system with a solid cover over the top, which allows water to enter, but not the debris. These alternative gutter systems do not mean that the gutter will not collect debris. They will also have to be maintained and monitored; however, less than a standard open gutter system. The roof also collects debris, which can reduce its life, if not cleaned and monitored. As a professional property inspector, we are required to look at the home to see if this type of standard maintenance has been done as a steady ritual. When inspectors recommend that the home’s gutter and roof are cleaned, it is always recommended that a qualified professional do the work, especially when working off a ladder or with power tools.

This is only a small part of a standard home inspection. There are many other important details that should be considered when maintaining a property. One important detail is to know where your home is distributing its water run off from the gutter and downspout. This is why it is a good idea to ensure that the downspout is tied into a professionally installed sub drain system terminating at street level. If there is no sub drain system present, then you are relying on natural drainage around your home to divert the water away from the homes foundation, which brings to mind another very important maintenance issue: lots and grounds drainage.

A home should always have the earth surrounding the home’s exterior foundation sloping away from the home. This is another part of a standard property maintenance inspection. When the home does not have proper surrounding drainage there can be numerous issues, such as standing water in the crawl space under your home. Standing water can lead to health issues due to the moist conditions under the home that could get into the central heating duct. Not to mention decay and or settlement of foundation framing. With a possible wet winter ahead, having a well maintained home envelope and properly graded grounds are very important elements of standard maintenance.

Steve Ogletree is a Property Inspector with National Property Inspections
(707) 604-7030, E-mail:

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