Search engine visitors - click here to access entire "$ensible Home" web site

Main DIY Projects | Weekend Projects List | Fix-It-Yourself Projects List

Fix-It-Yourself Project #103
"How to Repair Downspouts and Gutters"

Tool and Material Checklist

Gutter, Whisk broom, Pliers, Leaf strainer, Leaf guards, Ladder, Power drill, Steel brush for power drill, Plumber's or Electrician's snake, asphaltum paint, Roofing cement, Splash block, Gutter and downspout accessories, Heavy aluminum foil, Hacksaw, Downspout, Glove, Level, Line level, Steel wool, Steel brush, Paint brush

Here are tips and suggestions on how to repair and maintain downspouts and gutters. Read these instructions carefully. Following these suggestions can save you a lot of trouble and expense. They can also help you to lengthen the life of your gutters and downspouts.

1. Why Bother with Maintaining Downspouts and Gutters

Taking time to maintain and repair downspouts and gutters can double or even triple the life of your roof drainage system. At today's repair costs, that can save you a lot of money. Downspouts and gutters should be inspected about trice a year. They should be carefully examined in the spring just before the spring rains occur. They should be inspected again in the fall when leaves, limbs and other debris that might cause problems should be remove.

Improper drainage due to poor pitch is one of the biggest causes of roof drainage problems. Such improper drainage causes water to accumulate in certain spots in the gutters. This ultimately builds up debris and accelerates the rust problem. Clogged gutters and downspouts can also be a big problem.

All debris should be thoroughly cleaned from the gutters and downspouts at least twice a year. If you have a lot of trees near your house you will probably need to clean the gutters with a whisk broom even more often than twice a year. Rust is also a big problem. Keeping the gutters properly cleaned and the pitch set correctly will do a lot to slow down the rusting of gutters.

2 Adjusting the Pitch of Gutters

The gutters on your home should be installed in such a way that there is a drop of approximately 1/16" for each 1' of length the gutter runs. In other words, for each 8' span of gutter the drop should be 1/2". You can use a chalk line and a level to take a reading and mark the slope of your gutters. However, the simplest way is to pour a bucket of water into the gutter and observe the flow. If it runs off without leaving pools of water in the gutter, the gutter is set properly. if there are low spots, the water will set in the gutter and spot these low spots for you.

Ordinarily the pitch of a gutter can be set in one direction only. However, if the gutter runs more than 35', it is usually a good idea to let the gutter slant in each direction from the center. Again the drop should be set at a rate of 1/16" of fall for each 1' of gutter.

If high or low spots are detected in the gutter run, these can often be corrected by bending the hanger that supports the gutter. A slight bend up or down can often totally remove the low or high spot. Some gutters are installed with spikes and sleeves, sometimes called spikes and ferrules. In this case it will be necessary to add and additional spike or sleeve to raise or lower the fall of the gutter at any specific point. When extra spikes or sleeves are added, it is usually a good idea to use a power drill to drill a hole through the gutter before inserting the spike and sleeve.

Gutters are usually held in place either with spikes and sleeves or by hangers. There are two basic types of gutter hangers in popular use. One is the strap hanger. This type of hanger supports the gutter by a wrap-around strap underneath the gutter. A long strap is then affixed to the top and nailed to the sheathing under the edge of the roof. The roofing material covers the strap making it totally inconspicuous.

The bracket hanger is nailed or screwed to the fiasco underneath the Ave of the roof. Either of these types of hangers can be added as needed to remove high and low spots in a run of gutter on the side of a house. Add braces that match those already in use.

3. Stopping Clogging in Gutters and Downspouts

In many cases clogging occurs in a drainage system at the elbow where the downspout connects to the gutter. Since this elbow is relatively easy to remove, it is usually a good idea to remove it and inspect for clogging. If the clogging is not in the elbow it will be necessary to check further down the downspout.

In many cases the downspout can be checked from the bottom. However, if the downspout is inserted in an underground tiling system, it may be necessary to use a plumber's or electrician's snake to clean the downspout. A metal snake of this type can be used to penetrate the downspout for a great distance, thus removing obstacle that might cause clogging and back up problems.

If your roof drainage system is exposed to falling leaves and debris, it will be a good idea to install leaf strainers in all downspout outlets. These leaf strainers insert right into the downspout outlet. They permit the free passage of water but stop any leaves or other objects that might be big enough to cause problems in downspout drainage. Such leaf strainers are easily installed. They are readily available and relatively inexpensive.

You can also solve a lot of drainage by installing leaf guards over your entire gutter system. There are various types of leaf guards available. Leaf guards of metal, plastic, etc. are usually mounted in about the same way. The lower run of shingles, can be lifted and the leaf guard inserted underneath.

Some leaf guards clamp over the edge of the gutter. In any case, the leaf guards hold the leaves and other falling debris on top of the guard while the water flows freely through the drainage system. When the leaf dries on top of the guard it is quickly blown away.

4. Patching Leaks in Gutters

Almost any type of gutter will ultimately need some mending or repairing, although modern aluminum and plastic gutters and downspouts will last much longer than those made of galvanized steel. When leaks occur it is sometimes wise to totally replace entire sections of the gutter rather than trying to mend them. However, occasionally small leaks and rust spots may occur. If so, they can easily be patched or mended.

The first step in repairing a rusted and leaky gutter is to scrape off all the rust. This can be done with a steel brush or with a 1/4" drill and la power rotary brush. Take time to completely remove as much of the rust as possible, . Old rust left underneath the mending job simply starts to work again thus nullifying the results of all your hard work.

After the complete rusted area has been thoroughly brushed, you should cover the area to be repaired with a thin layer of asphaltum paint. If the paint is a good grade and quite thick, it can be diluted with an equal part of white unleaded gasoline. This tends to make brushing much easier. If gasoline is used be sure you avoid smoking or exposure to open flames.

Let the asphaltum paint dry thoroughly then cover it with a heavy layer of plastic cement that is especially made for roof and gutter repairs. If this is not available, ordinary roof cement can be used. Plastic cement for roof and gutter repair is usually thick. You should apply the layer of cemen to at thickness of approximately 1/8".

While the cement is till wet, cover the entire area with strips of heavy aluminum foil. Cut these pieces of foil to fit exactly inside the gutter area to be repaired. Press the foil down tightly into the gutter using a dry cloth. It is a good idea to wear gloves when doing this job.

When joining two pieces of foil on the mending job, overlap the foil in the direction of the water flow and cement the edges together securely. Be sure the overlap is in the direction of the water flow. Otherwise the water may enter at the seam. Such a patch job using asphaltum paint, roofing cement and aluminum foil can provide a long lasting repair for rusted and leaking gutters.

5. Maintaining Downspouts

The best gutter system cannot function properly unless all downspouts are in working order. Take time to examine your downspout system at the same time you are mending and repairing your gutters. If the downspouts drain into an underground tile system make a careful check at the point where the downspout enters the underground tiling.

Be sure it is cemented firmly into place and there is no back up or overflow at this point. If there is any question about the underground drainage or downspout system being open, use a plumber's or electrician's snake to clean any possible obstructions. In most cases downspouts empty onto a splash block. Be sure these splash blocks are large enough and high enough to take the water away from the foundation of the house. Check the splash blocks occasionally to make sure they are not broken or deteriorating.

Downspouts that pour water around the foundation of the house can cause many basement or crawl space water problems. Simple splash blocks as illustrated can remove much of this danger. In some cases it may be necessary to add extra downspout material to carry the water completely away from the house. If this is the case an extra length of downspout can be attached at the elbow and the downspout continued as far away from the house as necessary.

Special roll-up type downspout sheets are available that extend themselves when filled with water and then roll up when the water is emptied. These perform the same function as a downspout , but they avoid the unsightliness of the downspout extended into the yard. Downspout can be added simply by crimping the end of the material with a pair of pliers. When this is done one piece of downspout will slip easily into another.