Gutters are like any other part of a home’s exterior. They need to be properly maintained. Failure to do so may lead to such things as roof leaks, siding damage and basement moisture issues. I myself have had to deal with gutter issues that caused roof leaks and basement moisture problems. It is not pleasant. The far better alternative is to catch and correct gutter problems early before they can create a cavalcade of other, more costly problems. With that said, here’s a look at some basic gutter maintenance tasks homeowners should consider:
1. Cleaning Gutters
First and foremost, the best way to head off gutter problems is to keep your gutters debris free. That means taking a high powered garden hose to them periodically and running a plumber’s snake through the downspouts to remove any gunk. While you are at it, you’ll also want to replace any damaged gutter screens ($11) or wire strainers ($3).
2. Repairing Rusty Metal Gutters
Rust on a metal gutter tends to spread like gossip at the water cooler, so you’ll need to catch it quick. Once you’ve identified the rusty area, use a wire brush to slough off as much of the rust as you can. After that’s done, wipe the area clean. Using a putty knife, apply a thin coating of wet patch roof cement ($6) and let it dry. The wet patch roof cement should help thwart additional rust formation at least until you are ready to replace the affected section of gutter.
3. Treating Wooden Gutters
Not all homes have metal gutters. Some have wooden ones and they need routine care as well. Wooden gutters should be periodically treated with linseed oil ($7) to help protect them from the elements. If your wooden gutters have already sustained damage like cracking, you may need to do a little repair work. If the crack is not deep, you may be able to get away with sanding the area down. If the crack is substantial, you may need to fill it with wood putty and then coat the inside of the gutter with a thin layer of wet patch roof cement.
4. Replacing Strap Hangers
When replacing your gutter’s strap hangers, take care not to cause yourself future problems by attaching them the wrong way. For example, do not nail through your roof’s asphalt tiles as it will undoubtedly cause a leak. Instead, gently lift up the asphalt tile to expose the sheathing and nail your strap hanger to it. Then seal the nail heads with wet patch roofing cement and ease the asphalt shingle back into place. You’ll want to take similar precautions when nailing a strap hanger to your home’s exterior wall. In my experience, adding a bit of wet patch roofing cement to side of the strap that faces the wall tends to help create a better bond and seals the nail holes as well.
5. Re-Seat Splash Blocks
Are you having problems with rain water runoff? You may need to adjust your home’s splash blocks. Splash blocks ($10) are those chunks of concrete located at the bottom of your downspouts. Over time, splash blocks may settle and thus lose their pitch. Without a proper pitch, the splash blocks become nothing more than a ground level bird bath. To adjust the pitch, use two pry bars to lift the splash block up and then add a layer of sand, gravel and shims underneath it. The goal is to have a pitch sufficient enough to divert the water away from your home’s basement. If fiddling with the splash blocks doesn’t correct the rain water runoff problem, you may need to take other measures like installing a dry well or adding a downspout extension.
Killeen Gonzalez has a history of completing home improvement and landscaping projects with her family.
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How to Repair a Basement’s Moisture Problems