Your gutters are one of the most important components of your home. It can be easy to forget about them 90% of the time. They're up out of sight and they don't do much that you can see. As long as they aren't pouring water against your windows, you might not even notice when they are overflowing. But if you don't realize that they are clogged, you can wind up with thousands of dollars worth of repair work. And since autumn is upon us and leaves are falling, now is the time to make sure those gutters are clear.
First of all, if your gutters are clogged, you could end up with water getting into your basement. During heavy storms, your roof can collect hundreds or thousands of gallons of water. All of that water gets directed into your rain drain system if things are working properly. But if there are a bunch of leaves in the gutters, a lot of that water will come over the edge and land next to the home. That water seeps into the ground, and some of it will sit against your foundation. Even the most water-tight basement can end up leaking if you have enough water against the walls on the exterior.
This water can also put a lot of pressure against your foundation. If you follow Hane Home Inspections on Facebook, you might have seen a recent picture of a foundation with a horizontal crack so big that I was able to fit my hand into it. That's pretty bad, and it is all caused by water pushing on the home. Repairs will cost thousands of dollars. Fixing the gutters years ago would have helped to avoid that problem in the first place.
You can also end up with water getting inside your trim or your roof structure. If the water overflows on the back side of the gutter, it can get into the home in other ways. I recently did an inspection where water was being directed against the top of the family room windows. That water was able to get inside, where it damaged the drywall and the studs.
It is also very important to recognize that your gutters might get clogged even if you think they are safe. Gutter guards can help, but I have seen many times where the gutter guards themselves get clogged by debris. They need to be checked regularly, even if you don't have to clean them as often. And your gutters can get clogged even if there are no trees around or above it. Winds can carry leaves and other debris to places you might not expect. The granules that come off your composition shingles can also build up in the gutters, and they are heavy enough that they can create little dams to slow or stop the water from getting to the downspouts.
While cleaning gutters can be an annoying, gross, and, sometimes, dangerous bit of maintenance, it is absolutely crucial to maintaining the integrity of your home.