Problems With Gutters

Updated March 20, 2018

Your roof collects the rain that falls on your house and thus keeps you dry, but when the water runs off of it, it's the job of the gutters to direct it to a safe place. If the gutters are absent or not working properly, the water can run down the side of the house and damage the siding. It can also collect around the foundation, undermining it. Gutters are simple, but not immune to problems.


If there are trees around your house, it's a safe bet that your gutters will fill with leaves. This is a year-round problem, although it intensifies in autumn. Wet leaves create a haven for vermin, and once they fill your the gutters or downspouts, water will overflow.

It's a good maintenance procedure to clean your gutters regularly, at least twice a year, but you can also install a screen or awning to catch the leaves. Even if you do this, however, you should still budget two afternoons a year to climb on a ladder and clean off the leaves.

Ice Blockages

When snow collects on your roof and begins to melt, it can create an ice barrier that completely blocks the gutters. This can create dangerous conditions underneath as water drips and freezes on the ground below or icicles form into potentially lethal projectiles. If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, electrified heat tape is a prudent addition to your gutter system. Not only will it keep your gutters functioning properly, it will prevent a heavy build-up of snow and ice that can loosen the nails holding them.

Temperature Fluctuations

No matter what your gutters are made from, temperature fluctuations will make them expand and contract. These fluctuations can weaken and eventually break the seams where sections are joined together, and can also pull out the nails holding them to the fascia.

Metal gutters that are soldered together are less likely to separate than plastic ones that are glued together, but none are completely immune. Repair seams with appropriate sealant before the leaking water becomes a problem, and replace pulled-out nails with ring shank nails that bind more securely.

Gap Between the Gutters and the Roof

If the edge of the roof does not extend far enough into the gutters, water will drip behind, damaging the paint on the soffit and siding. If this situation persists, it will eventually rot the wood and necessitate some expensive repairs. When you install the gutters, you should make sure they are under the drip edge of the roof. But, if they are already installed, you can extend the drip edge by installing flashing under the shingles and extending it over the gutters.


Water can make an annoyingly loud sound when it hits the angled fitting at the bottom of your downspouts. You can correct this by installing silencers, available from a hardware store, on the inside curve of the fittings. You can correct erosion problems caused by water rushing from the spouts with another addition to the fitting that abates the flow, spreads the water out and distributes it evenly over a wider area. Neither retrofit is expensive.

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About the Author

Chris Deziel has a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's degree in humanities. Besides having an abiding interest in popular science, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.