“Nearly every longtime homeowner will be faced with making a decision between gutter repair or replacement at some point,” said Christopher Wittmann, CR, exterior product specialist with Callen Construction. “In this situation, it’s best to thoroughly examine the gutter system and look for particular clues that will guide you in the right direction.”
For instance, confined damage such as leaking caused by one failing joint or a couple loose hangers point towards gutter repair. Alternatively, more serious damage, such as detached or sagging gutters, prevalent fissures or rust, and basement flooding all signify gutter replacement.
If you spot gutter damage while cleaning out your gutters this spring, you’ll first want to evaluate the extent of the damage. “If it’s limited to a couple of locations, repairing the affected sections is the logical choice over replacing the entire gutter system,” said Christopher. Examples of minor damage include small holes, tears, or cracks. “These can easily be repaired with rubbing alcohol and sealant. If the splits are bigger, however, then you may need to install a metal flashing or patch inside the gutters,” he said.
Remember to periodically check your gutter system for possible leaks when snow melts or it rains. If you do find one, try to determine if the leak is localized to a particular area. If it is, chances are only that specific area will require repair. Typically, a single joint or seam can be repaired by firmly fastening the leaking section to the neighboring section or sections. Sometimes sealant is also needed to completely fill in the leak and create a watertight seal.
“Another sign that suggests gutter repair is needed are loose hangers, which can eventually become unfastened and fall around your property,” Christopher said. These can simply be reattached and secured with a screw-type fastener tightened with the use of a drill. If the hangers are warped or considerably warn, then be sure to replace them with new ones. “Keep in mind, reattaching a few hangers now and then is not a critical issue, but if it’s becoming a common recurrence, the gutters themselves may be compromised,” he said.
On the other hand, more serious gutter issues, such as disconnected or bulging gutters, call for gutter replacement. “In order for a gutter system to be fully functional, all of the gutter sections must be securely connected to each other as well as to the home itself and must not show indications of sagging,” said Christopher. When gutters are detached, the water cannot properly drain away from the home. Similarly, sagging gutters will collect precipitation in the gutter, which can culminate into an overflow and cause water damage. “Therefore, if your home’s gutters are constantly disconnecting from one other or the home, or they are drooping, then complete gutter replacement is mandatory,” he said.
It is suggested to take a close look at the presence of any tears or areas of rust in the gutter system. “If holes and rust stains seem to dominate multiple spaces or are expanding at a rapid pace, it reveals that your gutters are at the end of their lifespan,” Christopher said. “Gutter repair would be futile in this scenario since fixing a section at a time would serve as merely a Band-Aid approach. Therefore, replacement is required.”
It’s possible that if you see water damage, mold, or mildew near your home’s foundation or in your basement, that your gutter system is the likely culprit, especially if the gutters are eroding and are plugged with water. In this case, the water does not flow away from the home, rather it falls directly below, landing near the foundation of your property and seeping into the basement. “If left untreated, the misguided water can cause severe damage to the home’s foundation,” said Christopher. “Needless to say, prompt gutter replacement is unequivocally necessary.”
Another way to make sure gutters work properly is through a gutter protection system. For nearly 20 years, Callen has installed Gutter Topper on thousands of homes throughout southeastern Wisconsin. “With Gutter Topper, water flows smoothly into the gutters, even during the heaviest downpour, while leaves and other debris stay out. Equally effective against ice and snow, Gutter Topper is available in a full array of colors, so you can coordinate with your roof and gutters,” he said.
Determining whether your home’s gutters need to be repaired or replaced is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Remember, repair is suitable for minor damage such as limited wear and tear, a single leak, or a few unsecured hangers. Conversely, replacement is appropriate for major impairments such as disconnected or sinking gutters, widespread tears or rust, and water damage near the foundation or in the basement. Don’t hesitate to have your gutters inspected by a professional. “This will help solidify your decision and you can rest assured knowing that your gutters will be working as they should in no time,” Christopher said.