How many of us take our gutters for granted, not really aware of their function and use in our residential or business lives? Like many aspects of our lives which add to our convenience and comfort, gutters are static, silent warriors which perform their function whenever needed, usually requiring only minimal attention and maintenance. They enhance and further protect our homes, business premises and are used across all spheres of business.
What purpose do gutters serve?
But what exactly are gutters, and what is their purpose? Gutters are fairly shallow and narrow troughs which are situated on all sides of a roof at the end of the roof line, just beyond the eaves of a roof. Their purpose is to collect and redirect rain and hail run-off from the roof to specific areas, usually drains, via attached downspouts which channel the water from the gutters to its intended location. With present drought conditions and consequent water shortages in South Africa, many home- and business-owners have installed rain collection tanks into which the downspouts channel rainwater from the roof, which is an extremely useful water saving measure for use in the garden. Although gutters appear to run completely straight in parallel to the roof edge, they are, in fact, slightly sloped to allow for the adequate flow of water to the drainage points, being the downspouts. Downspouts are normally situated near the corners of a building where the gutters reach their steepest angle, to allow efficient water run-off.
Gutters protect building foundations
The function of gutters is to keep water away from the side of the house. This is important for a number of reasons. Through the combination of guttering and downspouts, water is drained away from the roof away from the base of the building, avoiding the erosion of soil around the foundation, and therefore directly assists in protecting the foundation. Water which often pools alongside the foundation of a building will ultimately affect and weaken the foundation, as well as causing water and moisture damage within the structure itself.
Keep your gutters free-flowing
If rain gutters are clogged or draining slowly, the gutters are more than likely to overflow during heavy rainstorms and water will run too close to the back of the gutter under the roof overhang and down the walls underneath. During periods of heavy rain, the walls will remain damp or even wet for long periods, which may ultimately lead to the structural failure of a building due to erosion, weakening the walls and leading to foundation cracks and settling. At the very least, this will result in spreading damp on the interior walls and the formation of mould on the walls affected. In addition, water which has nowhere to run to will tend to pool at the roof line itself, weakening the roof structure over time and leading to roof leaks. Roof leaks, in turn, eventually lead to interior leaks in the ceilings. Damp and resultant mould will also inevitably make its unwelcome presence felt in the roof space itself if there are any tears in the plastic lining under the roofing material. This mould will eventually find its way into the interior of the house, presenting health problems, especially in those who have asthma or allergies. Do your best to avoid this by regular maintenance of your gutters to ensure that they are draining without obstruction when it rains.
Indoor furniture can also be affected
Walls which are constantly damp as a result of defective guttering are problematic in that wooden furniture which is built in against the walls will eventually deteriorate and rot, probably without anyone knowing about it for a very long time, or at least until it is too late to renovate or save the furniture. Since the damp is constantly trapped between the wall and the furniture, there is no way for it to dry out and deterioration is the only outcome in such a situation.
Watch your garden planting
It is fairly obvious that delicate plants situated against the walls of a house with defective guttering will suffer from the detrimental effects of being trapped and damaged in an area which is prone to water pooling or heavy deluges from clogged guttering, or will simply be washed away. The solution would be to move those plants to a more hospitable area for them or simply clean those gutters!
Apart from the fact that buying plants is an expensive exercise, and watching them being needlessly destroyed is heartbreaking, such continued and obvious damage will directly impact on the curb appeal of your home and influence its property value.
Take care of your gutters and reap the rewards
It is more than obvious that taking good care of their building’s gutters, through both simple and regular maintenance or pro-actively resolving potential problems, is one of the best ways home- or business-owners can further protect their properties. Gutters are there for very good reason and serve a specific purpose in the proper functioning and longevity of any structure and should therefore be treated with the care and respect they deserve. Take the time to maintain them properly, and they will reward you for many years to come.