Gutter Maintenance and Repair

By thewriteDuffy •  Updated: 12/14/23 •  7 min read

Gutters and downspouts are invaluable for collecting and diverting water from one of the largest areas of your home: your roof. Why is it important? Water dripping continuously onto windows, doors, facades, and foundations can cause damage in the long run.

Gutters and Downspouts Prevent Water Damage

You want to do everything possible to prevent water from entering your home.

Some homes don’t require rain gutters. If you live in a wamer, dryer climate and your home was built with a large, broad overhang, water probably falls far enough away from your foundation to not cause you any issues.

However, if you live in a climate where it snows or rains regularly, like me, gutters make sense as simple preventative maintenance.

 Downspout extension  directing water away from the foundation.
Downspout extensions direct water away from the foundation.

Gutter and Downspout Inspections

It’s ideal if you inspect gutters a couple of times a year to make sure they’re operating efficiently. February, when the thawing and freezing is an issue, and September, when the leaves need to be removed are ideal times in my opinion (though your mileage may vary depending on your climate).

Gutters are attached to something called a fascia board. This board is suspended just below the roof line and is usually made of wood. When you’re busy checking your gutters, also make sure this fascia board isn’t deteriorating or rotting.

Gutter Materials

The table below compares different gutter materials, highlighting their key benefits and maintenance needs. This guide will help you make an informed decision based on your specific requirements and preferences.

Gutter MaterialDescription and BenefitsExtra Maintenance Requirements
SteelDurable, but rusts over time.Regular cleaning and inspection to prevent rust; may need occasional painting or rust treatment.
Vinyl or PlasticFavorite for DIYers; lightweight; susceptible to fading and degrading due to long-term exposure to elements.Just requires regular cleaning and maintenance but may need more frequent replacements due to degradation.
AluminumMost popular choice; can be fabricated on-site without seams, reducing the chance of leaks.Fine with regular cleaning and maintenance; resistant to rust.
CopperBeautiful and long-lasting; higher price.Requires regular cleaning; develops a patina over time that can be left as is or cleaned to maintain original shine.
WoodPractically obsolete; found on some historic homes.High maintenance; needs regular treatment to prevent rot and insect damage.

Repairing Minor Damage To Your Gutters or Downspout

Patching holes in your gutters or downspouts doesn’t take much skill or expertise, but you do need to be comfortable working from a ladder.

Here’s the quick DIY 101 for small gutter patches:

Materials You’ll Need

Step 1: Anchor your ladder securely and climb up to the gutter. Clear away debris from the leaking area. Gutters can contain exposed screws and jagged metal parts, so wear heavy-duty work gloves.

Step 2: If the hole is small, a smattering of roofing cement ought to do the trick. If there’s rust, sand the area, wipe away the particles with a rag and use a putty knife to apply the cement. (Use cement only when it’s warm enough outside for it to be malleable.)

Step 3: Holes larger than an inch but narrower than the width of the gutter trough can be patched with a small piece of sheet metal. If you’re lucky, you have a piece of sheet metal lying around. If not, you may have to buy a piece from a home center and cut it to size with tin snips.

Spread the roofing cement around the hole and embed the patch over it. Slather more roofing cement over the seams, so it will be watertight.

Cleaning Gutters 101

Gutters should be cleaned at least twice a year. If your home is on a heavily wooded lot, you’ll need to do it more often. The idea here is to keep gutter channels free of debris so water can be free-flowing.

What you’ll need:

Step 1: Start at the drain or downspout area and anchor your ladder securely. With heavy-duty gloves on, scoop out the loose debris with your hands or a garden trowel.

Step 2: Once you’ve removed all of the debris you can, take the hose to the middle of a gutter run. Wearing safety glasses, turn the nozzle on “jet” and flush the trough with water. Direct the stream toward the downspouts.

Step 3: If there are large chunks of debris that won’t dislodge, loosen them with a scrub brush.

Step 4: Finally, go to each downspout and spray water down into it to clear any built-up mud or debris.

4 Gutter Cleaning Shortcuts

1. Time it Right: If you clean your gutters a day or two after it rains, the moist muck is easier to scoop up. If the muck dries out and adheres to the gutter, cleaning it out is more time-consuming.

2. Become a Roof Walker: Another fast and easy way to clean your gutters if you have a walkable roof is to take a strong leaf blower and simply walk around the roof and blow the gutters out. Remember to tie yourself off in case of any slips on wet leaves.

3. Consider Hiring: Some people are afraid of heights, even just eight feet up. If you fall into this category, consider hiring a professional. Otherwise, cleaning the gutters of a single-story home will take a few hours.

4. Invest in Gutter Guards: If you’re afraid of heights and don’t like cleaning gutters a pro hack is to invest in gutter guards. This cuts the majority of your gutter cleaning down to a one-time process. You simply clean the gutters as you put up the guards. 

Gutter guards are fast and easy to install and hardly noticeable.

Unfortunately, they are not going to completely remove any gutter maintenance from your to-do ist especially if you live where there are “needles” not leaves near by, which can still find their way through the gutter guards.

It’s also important to remember that dirt from a large surface like a roof is going to find its way through small holes. Moss may also be a big consideration where you live, which loves wet contained areas like a covered eave. This requires the removal of the guards of course and it can be a bit on the pricey side, depending on the amount, height etc.

However, unlike having to clean your gutters every six-months or so, your cleaning will be reduced to a flushing every four or five years.

Conclusion: Maximizing Your Home’s Protection with Gutters and Downspouts

Gutters and downspouts are crucial in safeguarding your home against water damage. They’re especially vital in areas with frequent rain or snow. By efficiently collecting and diverting water away from your home, they prevent damage to windows, doors, facades, and foundations. Regular inspections, ideally in February and September, ensure they’re in top condition. Choosing the right material—steel, vinyl, aluminum, copper, or wood—depends on your needs and maintenance willingness.

Repairing minor damage, like patching holes, is doable with basic DIY skills. Keeping gutters clean is essential, at least twice a year or more if surrounded by trees. If heights aren’t your thing, consider hiring a professional or installing gutter guards. These guards can significantly reduce maintenance efforts, though they don’t eliminate it entirely.

In summary, gutters and downspouts are a smart investment for long-term home protection. Regular maintenance and the right material choice can save you from costly repairs and ensure your home stays dry and damage-free.

thewriteDuffy

At home, April is a mom, wife, and DIY darling. Among other home projects, she helped her husband Dan renovate their 1986 bungalow and is currently designing and decorating the 2023 custom home they are building themselves. Professionally, April is a writer, author, and online marketer with 15 years of experience writing for newspapers and magazines, building online authority websites, and publishing books.