I need to clean my gutters today!
By Mitch Kuffa
The single biggest enemy to the house is water. Some of it comes from the ground, some comes from faulty plumbing and most comes from the sky in the form of rain. In general, houses have gutters and downspouts to help control rainwater. One of the most neglected and non-maintained systems in the home is the gutter and downspout system. We find many houses that don’t have a system at all and many show minimal to no maintenance. It is very common to find gutters falling off, being ill pitched (don’t forget water runs downhill), are so dirty that plants are growing out of them and the downspouts are damaged and are discharging water next to the foundation.
After seeing thousands of homes, it is my opinion that almost all should have a gutter and downspout system to control the rain. This system directs water runoff so that it does not have a negative impact on the building.
Here are some of the things that can be damaged by the rain if there is a faulty gutter system.
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- The majority of basement leaks can be controlled if there is properly discharged outside water away from the house. All downspouts should at least have 3 ft. extensions an in my opinion preferably a concrete splash block. The reason I suggest a concrete splash block is because they are “immovable” and it keeps people away from them (with lawnmowers, bikes, etc.). It is very common to find damp corners inside basement walls where the downspout is located. It’s quite simple. If you dump water right next to the building it is only a matter of time before it infiltrates.
- If this gutter and downspout rain diversion system is dirty or ill pitched it is easier for the rainwater to overflow. House roof overhangs are commonly damaged by water backing up and seeping into the structure. If the water overflows it also often runs down the walls and saturates the brick which for all intents and purposes is like a dense hard sponge. Brick and masonry block absorb water which is then easily impacted by freezing temperatures which can eventually crack and deteriorate the masonry. Rainwater should not be allowed to run onto concrete porches, brick retainer walls or exterior window sills, etc. If this occurs, it’s only a matter of time before the masonry will crack, shale and/or fail.
- Depending on the type of soil you have around your house, non-controlled rainwater can have a structural impact on the foundation. This is especially the case with clay type soils that have the tendency to hold water. Rainwater running off your roof goes into the clay soil and remains there. Do you know how heavy water is? “A pints a pound, the world ’round.”. A gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds. Now, have all that rainwater being held in a clay soil obviously makes it very heavy and it can put excess pressure on foundation walls. Hydrostatic pressure cracks show up in the form of long horizontal cracks at the inside of a foundation wall usually near where the ground level is outside.
- In addition to the above random rainwater runoff from the roof creates a damp environment which is suitable for many types of insects. If we can control the areas of moisture we can minimize the insect concern.
So you see, that it is important for many reasons to control the rainwater runoff from your building. Remember that gutters have to be cleaned, pitched and secure. If there are large trees in the area they should be cut back or possibly have gutter screens installed. There should be 1 downspout for approx. every 35 ft. of gutter run and all of these should be extended so as to empty water away from the building.
Mitchell J. Kuffa Jr. has been in the construction industry since 1967. In that time, he was worked as a construction superintendent, general superintendent and construction manager for several large developers in the state of Michigan.
He has been a licensed Michigan residential builder since 1977, was an incorporated general contractor for 11 years and has built and/or run the construction of approx. 3,500 residential houses, apartments, commercial structures and/or light industrial buildings.
In 1981 he started the first private home inspection agency in Michigan and to date has personally performed approx. 16,000 inspections for a fee.
Since 1981, Mr. Kuffa, inspects properties and acts as a construction consultant for the Michigan Department of Mental Health (group homes), UAW Legal Services, numerous lenders, several non-profit organizations and for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Mr. Kuffa is a federal housing fee inspector and FHA 203K mortgage loan consultant, works with several attorney’s as an “expert witness”, has been appointed by the Michigan circuit court system to act as a Receiver in several cases concerning construction litigation and teaches a series of construction classes (for misc. school districts, community colleges. Michigan state housing authority, etc.).
Mr. Kuffa has been a member of the National Association of Home Inspectors, in good standing, since 1983.
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