Gutters are one of the oldest forms of protection for the home as they have been in use, as a concept, for over 2000 years. Gutters naturally serve to protect your roof, but more than that, they shield windows, siding, and the home's foundation from the harsh effects of rain water. Gutters are purposed to channel water from the home to an end-point where the water can eventually flow freely, far enough away from the home to deter any damage. If the flow of rain water is disrupted by a failing gutter system, the forceful nature of the element water will find a way to negatively impact the integrity of your home. A visual inspection of your home, inside and out, may reveal certain warning signs which signal a need to replace your current gutters.
Look for a build-up of water, or excessive moisture around the foundation of your home. Signs here may also include a softening, or other damage to the walls and siding, as well as mildew or mold. You may also notice foundation cracks, seeping water accumulating inside the basement, and even flooding.
Inspect the exterior paint, siding, and the windows of the home. If you notice paint chipping, bubbling, or peeling there is a good chance that your gutters are ineffective. Malfunctioning gutters can also allow water to penetrate exterior trim such as window sills, which can cause rot and mold over time, allowing your home to become vulnerable to the elements.
Next, inspect the gutters and downspouts. Note whether there is any sagging or pulling away from the fasteners, broken fasteners, signs of rust, and any holes or cracks. Pay close attention to the fascia board to determine if there is any rot. It should be noted that small cracks may be present that go unnoticed when the gutters are dry. These cracks, although very small, can be just as harmful as the larger blemishes as they allow water to seep, creating damage to the gutters and to the home itself.
Cracks may be located in areas where paint is peeling on the gutters, where you see signs of water damage on the underside of the gutter, and damage underneath the gutter. Depending upon the gutter material, look for specific weaknesses. For example, galvanized steel gutters can rust, where aluminum gutters do not. Gutters with seams are especially vulnerable where they are connected. Look for separations, leaks, and water damage at the seams.
When inspecting your home, it is important to always include landscaping and any patios, landings, steps, or porches around the perimeter. Malfunctioning gutters can also cause damage to these areas. Uncontrolled falling water, especially the concentrated amounts often noted with bad gutters or downspouts, can cause softened or rotten wood which can become dangerous. Excessive moisture can erode landscaping and negatively affect the viability of certain plant types.
After a thorough inspection, consider any signs of rot or damage noted and whether it is cost effective to repair the problems and the gutters, or whether repairing failing gutters would be just putting a bandage on the inevitable and opening-up your home to more potential damage.