Gutters prevent the water that falls on your roof from collecting near your foundation. Houses without gutters usually have a distinct “drip line” where the water that has fallen from the roof edge has eroded the soil below. Where entrances or walkways pass under a roof edge, gutters prevent water from sheeting off the roof directly onto people below. Because gutters are subject to some of the harshest natural elements—wind, water, ice, and sunlight—damage from corrosion and physical stress is almost inevitable. When that happens, leaks and water damage can quickly follow.
Corrosion in a gutter system typically occurs from the inside out. If your gutters are beginning to leak as a result of corrosion, the prognosis is not good. Patching may provide a temporary solution, but now would be an excellent time to start shopping for a new gutter system. Sometimes even when the gutter system itself is sound, the gutter supports have broken or pulled away from the house. If the gutters are sagging, water that would normally flow toward one of the downspouts will pool at the low spot and then spill over the side of the gutter. If leaves are a problem, put plastic mesh gutter guards over the gutter. The mesh comes in a roll. Trim it to width if necessary and then slip it into the top of the gutter. Clean your gutters twice a year to avoid blockages.
EVALUATING GUTTERS - Gutters have been made of nearly everything—wood, copper, vinyl, galvanized steel, and aluminum. Because of their cost, wood and copper are seldom used today. Until recently, most new gutters were aluminum. Enameled aluminum gutters are available in several colors and are lightweight and corrosion-resistant. Vinyl gutters are becoming more popular because they are durable, available in several colors, and easy to install. Sections and fittings are pre-colored and come in standard sizes that basically snap together. Galvanized-steel gutters are often the lowest-priced of all systems and usually have an enameled finish. Unless they're painted frequently, however, galvanized gutters have a shorter life than the alternatives. All gutters slope toward the downspouts to allow water to drain properly. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
MATERIALS: Gutter mesh cover, silicone gutter adhesive/caulk, sheet metal screws, rivets, rubber gaskets, plastic roofing cement
TOOLS: Pliers, wire brush, paintbrush, rivet gun, pry bar, hacksaw, hammer, putty knife, scissors, caulking gun, screwdriver
Fixing sagging gutters
IF YOUR GUTTERS ARE HELD IN PLACE WITH BRACKETS, BEND THE BRACKETS SLIGHTLY WITH A PAIR OF PLIERS TO CORRECT THE SAG. Pour a bucket of water into the gutter to check whether you've fixed the problem. If the water collects in a puddle, rebend and retest until it runs into the downspout.
IF YOUR GUTTERS ARE HELD IN PLACE BY SPIKES AND FERRULES, A LOOSE SPIKE IS CAUSING THE SAG. Find the spike and remove it. Replace it by running a 7-inch galvanized screw through the ferrule. (You can buy screws made specifically for the job, but any galvanized screw will do.)
Repairing leaky metal gutters
1 PATCHES WON’T STICK TO RUSTY OR DIRTY METAL. Clean the area around the leak with a wire brush and water. Once the area has dried, scrub it with an abrasive pad. Wash off all grit; let the gutter dry.
2 PATCH SMALL HOLES BY APPLYING PLASTIC ROOFING CEMENT OVER THE HOLE. Feather the cement out on the surrounding area and flatten out any steep edges created by the cement that would interfere with the water flow. Use caution when working on elevated spaces!
IF THE LEAKS ARE LARGER THAN NAIL HOLES, USE TIN SNIPS TO CUT A STRIP OF FLASHING. The flashing should be the same material as the gutter. If the gutter is made of galvanized steel use galvanized steel, if aluminum use aluminum—mixing metals can cause corrosion. The flashing strip should be big enough to cover the hole and the area around it. Bend the strip to match the shape of the gutter and embed the flashing in the cement. Feather out the cement around the edges of the repair.
Repairing leaky joints
1 PIECES OF METAL DOWNSPOUT ARE SCREWED TO EACH OTHER AND TO THE GUTTER. Remove the screws (or other connecting hardware] at the joint and disassemble it. You may need to remove other gutter or downspout sections near the leaky joint before inserting new sections.
2 CLEAN ANY CAULK OR ADHESIVE FROM BOTH PARTS OF THE JOINT USING A STIFF WIRE BRUSH. Replace rubber gaskets on vinyl or PVC (poly vinyl chloride) gutters.
3 APPLY SILICONE CAULK TO ONE OF THE PARTS THAT FORMS THE JOINT, then reassemble the gutter system by pressing the two parts together. Verify that the uphill section is always on top of the downhill section. Re-secure fasteners or connectors.
Replacing a section of metal gutter
1 REMOVE THE SCREWS AND CONNECTORS FROM THE DAMAGED AREA OF THE GUTTER. If you are prying out nails or spike-and-ferrule fasteners, put a piece of scrap wood across the opening to keep from crushing the gutter. Pull gently so that you maintain your balance when the spike comes out.
2 LEAVE THE SCRAP IN PLACE TO KEEP THE GUTTER FROM BENDING. Cut out the damaged area by cutting through the gutter on each side of the damage.
3 CUT THE REPLACEMENT SECTION OF THE GUTTER so that it is U inches longer than the removed section. Make sure your ladder is on solid footing before starting.
4 APPLY PLASTIC ROOF CEMENT OR GUTTER REPAIR COMPOUND on the 2 inches of gutter nearest the cuts. Set the new section in place so that the uphill section of gutter is on top of the downhill section at each joint.
5 DRILL PILOT HOLES FOR RIVETS. Connect the two sections with rivets driven by a pop riveter.
6 DRILL PILOT HOLES FOR SPIKE-AND-FERRULE FASTENERS THROUGH GUTTERS, leaving the spacer blocks in place. Insert spikes in the front of the gutter, slip on the ferrules, and then drive the spikes into the fascia until the heads are flush with the gutter. Remove the spacers once you've hung the gutters.