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Leaking Gutters

There are many reasons why your gutters may leak.

  1. Improper slope of gutters when they were installed. They may slope away from downspout and cause the water to pool in corners
  2. Settling of foundation from unpacked soil during construction
  3. Settling of house at corners because of natural settling of building materials
  4. Sagging of gutters at corners because nails were used that pull loose
  5. Gutters not mechanically fastened properly (I've come to conclude the gutter installers and/or builders know that they gutters are going to leak even when they put them up)
  6. Gutters not sealed properly when they were installed
  7. Debris lodges at corner joint due to rise of joint overlap and dams water at joint.

Details on nature of mechanical stress on gutters that cause gutters to leak

If a joint in the gutter sheet metal is sealed good but not held together mechanically, then the seal will fail as the gutter moves about from the temperature changes (metal expands and contracts with temperature change).

If the gutter is fastened well, but not sealed with a good gutter caulk, then it will leak.

This corner wasn't riveted properly at the bottom of the corner and was not caulked inside the joint. There is only superficial caulk on the top rivet.
This corner wasn't riveted properly at the bottom of the corner and was not caulked inside the joint. There is only superficial caulk on the top rivet.

Why should gutters be sealed well at the corners?

In short, improperly contructed gutters cause:

  1. Rot to the siding from dirt splashing on siding
  2. Rot in the rafter tails or fascia boards
  3. Settling of foundation
  4. Cracking of foundation
  5. Insect infestation
  6. Mosquitoes breeding in putrid pooled water
  7. Irritating dripping noise

Here's a more detailed explanation: Since gutters are made of metal (usually) and the house is made of wood (usually), then gutters change length at different rates than the house. As a result, the gutter pushes and pulls on the gutter fasteners (usually nails) as it expands the length of the gutter. The greatest push and pull is at the ends of the gutter where it is nailed to the house. This also includes the corners. Also, the corners of buildings tend to sag because of inadequate support. The support may be well enough for a asthetic appearance, but not enough to maintain proper gutter slope. This combination of inadequate corner support and the working loose of the gutters frequently causes water to pool in corners of gutters and these same corners to leak. When the gutter leaks in the corners, it drips below and wears away at the landscape, splashing dirt onto the siding. This causes the siding to rot near the foundation. Liquefying soil can also allow the foundation to shift and possible crack. Thirdly, the water leaks out the house-side of the gutter and rots the boards to which the gutter is fastened.

Solutions to gutter leaking

So know you know the problem, what's the solution? Well, there are several solutions and each one depends on how big a problem it is to you, how much time and money you want to spend etc. So I'm just going to list solutions and we can talk about it in detail for your situation if you want.

Possible Solutions:
  1. Clean the corner joing, mechanically fasten it, and caulk it
  2. Endcap the two otherwise joined stretches, leaving room for expansion. Raise the ends of gutters and/or lower near the downspout so that water flow toward downspouts.
  3. Jack up the sagging corner of the house (extreme cases and even on poorly constructed newer homes, ooftah!) or rebuild this roof area
  4. Drill a small hole for water to drain (not so big as to let a lot through, but large enough for it to drain during dry spells. Also put a block underneath drip so water splashes away from house. This is kinda tacky, but works and is cheap. It can also be easily modified later when you have more time/money to deal with issue.


This page was last updated on 2010-06-24

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