What purpose do gutters serve?
The primary function of a gutter system is to redirect water away from your home. The gutter prevents erosion of the ground around your home and decreases the risk of foundation issues by redirecting water.
When gutters start to sag, it indicates a problem with the gutter system, causing improper water drainage away from your home and foundation.
What are the reasons your gutters may start to sag and how can you fix it?
There are multiple factors that can cause gutters to sag. In this article, we will explore some common reasons why our customers reach out for assistance on a daily basis.
Reason #1: Clogged Gutters
Customers may be surprised by how quickly gutters can become filled with debris, even if there are no trees in close proximity to the house. This is especially true for those living in areas with heavy tree coverage. When gutters accumulate debris, it hinders the water flow to the extent that it cannot drain out of the downspouts.
When the flow of water is restricted from exiting the gutters, the gutters become filled to capacity and hold a significant amount of weight. Water has a weight of 8.34 pounds per gallon. A standard 5″ K-style gutter found on most homes can hold approximately 1.2 gallons of water per foot (6″ K-style gutters hold about 2 gallons of water per foot).
A typical 20 foot run of gutters filled to capacity can hold approximately 200 lbs. To illustrate, consider a person weighing 200 lbs holding onto the gutters. The weight of the gutters can cause them to sag and pull away from the house. Throughout the year, gutters usually accumulate leaves, limbs, roof granules, and even children’s toys, all of which can impede the flow of water through the gutters.
Heavy rain, snow, and ice during certain times of the year can cause significant damage if the gutters are clogged and filled to maximum capacity. It is recommended to have your gutters cleaned at least three times a year, and possibly more frequently if there is a significant amount of debris falling on the gutters and roof.
We recommend late fall (mid to late November), early winter (mid January), and mid spring (mid to late April). Gutter protection is effective in preventing clogging of the gutters.
Gutter protection is designed to prevent the clogging of gutters, ensuring that water can flow freely through them, although it does not completely prevent leaves and debris from falling on the roof. Debris can accumulate on the gutters, which can be removed either by wind or by using human intervention to clean them. This situation is better than having the gutters completely full and clogged with debris.
Reason #2: Gutter Pitch
A common issue observed with gutters is incorrect pitch. While it is a fact that water is self-leveling, it is often observed that gutters do not have the necessary slope to ensure proper drainage towards the downspouts.
This problem can result in the gutters retaining excess water, or in some cases, constantly retaining water, as the water in the gutter will not reach the downspouts for drainage. The additional weight in the gutters leads to them separating from the house and sagging.
Reason #3: Hanger Spacing
The hangers are used to secure the gutters to the perimeter edge of the house. In the past, gutters were attached using large spikes that resembled nails and were secured from the front of the gutter. Newer type hangers are installed from the inside of the gutter and are commonly known as hidden hangers because they cannot be seen from the ground.
In dryer climates with low rainfall, it is recommended to space plants no more than every 36″. In climates with high levels of rainfall, hangers can be installed as close as every 18 inches. A general guideline in the southeast is approximately every 24-30 inches. Insufficient installation of gutter hangers can result in sagging and detachment of the gutters from the house due to the weight of the water flowing through them.
Reason #4: Wood Rot
When gutters sag or pull away from the house, water can run off the roof behind the gutters and saturate the wood or fascia material behind them, causing the material to deteriorate more quickly.
Certain houses may need extra flashing that is installed under the shingles and extends into the gutter to prevent water from seeping behind the gutters. This is also known as drip edge or eave metal, or simply flashing.
Depending on the year they were built, some houses may have a larger construction gap or spacing at the edge of the roof that might necessitate additional flashing to ensure proper water drainage into the gutter.
Reason #5: Undersized Gutters
Many homes installed in the southeast have a traditional 5″ size. This may be suitable for a house of moderate size or a roof with a moderate pitch. In some cases, a larger house with a lot of roof area and a steep pitch may lead to a situation where the gutter becomes overwhelmed by heavy rainfall and is unable to drain quickly enough.
The additional weight in the gutter leads to sagging and detachment from the house over time. A gutter professional can assist in determining the suitability of a larger or different type of gutter for the home. As an example, half-round gutters have a lower water carrying capacity compared to a 5″ gutter, whereas a 6″ gutter has almost double the water capacity of a 5″ gutter. When choosing the gutter style and size for your home, it is important to consider several factors.
Reason #6: Gutter Sections
Older homes may have metal gutters that were installed in 20-foot runs and connected together with joints. If the gutters were not initially pitched correctly, it can be challenging to make adjustments, and over time, the weight of the water may cause these sections to sag or pull away from the house.
Modern gutter machines enable the production of metal and aluminum gutters on-site in long, continuous lengths. This reduces the number of joints in the gutters and makes it easier to accurately adjust the pitch in smaller increments.
Reason #7: Damaged Gutter
At times, the gutters may be worn out and old. Metal gutters that are older may be rusted. Older aluminum gutters that have sagged or pulled away from the house can become permanently twisted, and despite adjustments, they never appear aesthetically pleasing or function properly.
Tree limbs or branches may have fallen and caused the gutters to detach from the house. It is possible that ladders were placed directly on the gutters without a roof standoff, resulting in permanent bending or denting. We recommend using a ladder standoff to prevent any damage to the gutters.
The gutters may have a permanent sag or bend, and replacing the gutters or a section of them may be necessary to resolve the problems.
Don’t Let Your Sagging Gutters Ruin Your Home
This list is not comprehensive of all possible reasons for sagging gutters, but it may serve as a helpful guide if you observe these common types of issues with your gutters. If you notice any problems with your rain gutters, it is recommended to contact one of our professional gutter specialist who can assist you in identifying and resolving the issues. They can help ensure that your gutters are functioning properly and fulfilling their intended purpose.