After all that talk about flashing, doubtless your mind is already in the gutter, so let’s just move on to gutters and downspouts without further delay.
The sole function of these rather unaesthetic and sometimes maddening pieces of metal (or occasionally vinyl) is to save your home’s siding the stress and damage that would ultimately be caused by all the water draining off your roof. Without redirection, your house would be saturated by a deluge of water every time it rained, causing wear against outside walls, windows and doors, and comprising the seals that keep your house water-tight.
Gutters take the run-off from your roof and direct it to downspouts, which move the water down and away from your home’s foundation, to help prevent flooding. If your gutters become clogged it puts your entire home at risk of water damage.
To drain effectively, gutters must be positioned to slope at the correct angle: about 1 inch for every 20 feet between downspouts. If your gutters are clean but not draining properly, you’ll need to adjust the hangers, straps or brackets holding them in place to increase the slope. Gutters should be installed tightly against the fascias (faces of the eaves and rakes) with a sufficient number of brackets or straps to keep them secure. If a strap breaks free, anchor it again with sheet metal screws or rivets (unless you have copper gutters, in which case use copper only).
As with many home maintenance tasks, the best medicine is prevention. Clean your gutters once a year (or have a service do it: most charge between $75-150, depending on the house’s size and number of floors). If you live is an area that sees a lot of rainfall it never hurts to clean your gutters and downspouts twice a year, in the autumn and the spring, which will limit your exposure to rotting leaves and other debris. If you have birds roosting on or around your roof, it will help limit the clogging their dung inevitably causes.
If you have lots of lovely trees near your rooftop, you should pay special attention to the gutters near areas where they shed leaves. Unclogging gutters and downspouts may not be much fun, but it is an easy job if you do it regularly and don’t wait until it becomes a necessity—usually during a terrible rainstorm when water starts entering your house.