Monday, August 31, 2009

To Install Gutters Or Not to Install Gutters

They divert rain water away from your foundation and landscaping. They protect the ground around your home from erosion. They keep water from pouring on your head as you enter and exit your home. They can be used to collect rain water for watering your lawn and plantings during drought times. Why wouldn't you want to install gutters on your home?

They leak. They clog. They overflow. They rob the plants around your home of a good soaking. They can cause tremendous erosion at the base of downspouts. They're ugly! They require maintenance from a dangerous rooftop or ladder. Why would you want to install gutters on your home?

There is no easy answer to the simple question: "Should I install gutters on my home, or not?" You'll simply have to weigh the pros and cons for your particular situation and decide for yourself.

The first thing to consider in making this decision is do you really need them? Take a look at the ground around your home. Does it slope away from your foundation? If it does you don't need gutters to keep water away from your foundation. If it doesn't you should probably look into some grading work before worrying about gutters anyway.

Next, take a look the landscaping surrounding your home. Can it be damaged by rainwater falling from the edge of your roof? This may be a tough question to answer at first thought. Go outside and inspect the areas under your eaves. If you find bare ground, mulch or lawn you should definitely consider gutters, or a change in ground materials that your rainwater will fall upon. If you find mature shrubbery, stone or any variety of hardscaping you probably don't have to worry about erosion. Consider the height of your roof. Water falling from the edge of a two, or three, story home will cause far more erosion and water falling from a single story home.

Do you have trees around your home? Are they taller than your roof? Will they eventually be taller than your roof? If you have, or someday will have, trees that will shed leaves onto your roof you should seriously consider making do without gutters. Consider installing an alternative to gutters, or invest in one of the better products designed to keep leaves and other debris from entering your gutters. And don't be fooled into thinking that coniferous trees (e.g. pines) don't count. They drop as much, or more, material onto your roof as do deciduous trees.

A clogged gutter or downspout is not only useless, it is dangerous. The overflow is likely to find its way into the fascia board to which the gutter is secured causing rot and possible infiltration into walls and other structural members of your home. Where the collected water hits a clog it overflows, pouring onto a concentrated area of your landscaping or hardscaping causing damaging erosion. Water is heavy. A full gutter can break free damaging your home, or worse.

Do you live in an area that compels you, or forces you, to ration water use? This factor alone can trump all others. Collected rainwater is superior to any other source of water for lawns and other plantings. It can be used to wash your cars or fill pools and other water features. You use it for washing clothes and bathing, even for drinking with proper treatment.

Can you get by with a simple diverter over your entryways allowing water to fall to one side or both? Can you simply deal with a bit of water shedding onto your head during storms? Can you deal with the mundane appearance of traditional gutters and downspouts? Granted, half-round copper gutters and round copper downspouts add elegance to Victorian and Gothic architecture, but standard aluminum "K" gutters and rectangular downspouts can do more to break the clean lines of modern houses than any other exterior accessory items.

Chances are you live in a home that already had gutters installed either for need or as an afterthought of conformity. If you are looking at having a new roof or siding installed think hard on all of these points before making a blind decision to replace your gutters and downspouts as well. If you are building new, consider the site and talk to your neighbors, especially if you are moving to an unfamiliar area. In the end, the decision is yours and yours alone. Make an informed one.

Mike Hudecheck
Pro-G Contractors
Roofing Siding Windows Doors
Delaware, Chester, Montgomery, Philadelphia Counties in Pennsylvania; New Castle County in Delaware; Cecil and Harford Counties in Maryland

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