As restoration contractors, we’ve seen far too many homes with extensive damage stemming from clogged rain gutters. While clearing your rain gutters might not always feel like the best use of your time, neglecting your gutters is a quick way to damage your roof, home, and landscaping.
This is especially true in areas that get heavy rains. If the first rain that you get after the gutters clog is a torrential storm, it’ll be more than just a small problem. When your gutter system isn’t able to safely redirect water to a downspout, it could pool up or run off in other areas that will cause you trouble.
1. Roof Leaks
All of the water collected by your shingles ends up in the gutter. If it can’t flow out the downspout, it will be pushed back, beneath shingles and into the fascia. The fascia is the wooden backing behind the gutter system. It’s not meant to be exposed to water, so a gutter leak may rot it or encourage mold growth.
Once the water has absorbed into the fascia, it may push its way into the attic, depending on how many inches of rain you get at once. But, if the water doesn’t immediately leak into the attic, it will push back on the shingles, flowing up the roof face instead of down it.
If you have a waterproof membrane as your underlayment beneath the shingles it may prevent a leak for some time, but standing water can still soak your shingles and permanently damage them. If you don’t have a waterproof membrane, you’re much more likely to get an immediate leak that rots the roof deck, at the base of the roof. In order to replace it, you have to remove everything from the roof, which can be an expensive process.
But even if your shingles and roof deck survive, there are many other ways water can damage your roof. You’re better off keeping your gutters clear and avoiding the risk.
2. Foundation Damage
The gutter system is specifically designed to carry water away from the home, to prevent it from collecting around the foundation. As water overflows the gutters it pours straight onto the ground, which may cause cracks or sinking. A serious enough crack can cause a complete collapse of your foundation, which would make your home uninhabitable until it can be re-stabilized.
3. Basement Damage
Water that pools around your foundation also has the potential to seep into your basement. While rainwater itself does not carry many contaminants, it can easily pick them up as it enters your basement, where it can quickly lead to a mold infestation.
If your basement is full of dark nooks and crannies, it is easy to overlook an infestation for days, weeks, or even months at time. Common household mold infestations can cause everything from mild cold and allergy symptoms to headaches, lethargy, pulmonary issues and worse, so even basic water damage in your basement should not be overlooked.
4. Landscaping Damage
Water that overflows the gutters may damage your plants, either by overwhelming the ground until it floods, or by the sheer impact of the fall from your roof. It doesn’t take much force to rip petals off flowers or bend stems, and plants with shallow roots don’t stand a chance.
Of course, landscaping damage is less serious than foundation damage or mold damage, but it can still be expensive and time consuming to replace drowned grass or destroyed flowers. New sod won’t take on soaked ground, so you’ll need to resolve the gutter clog and wait for dry weather before you can fix your landscaping.
Cleaning out the gutters might seem like a chore you can put off, but if rain is a possibility, be sure your gutters are ready to take on the task. It only takes a few minutes to clean your gutters, and even if you pay someone else to do it, it will always cost less than repairing the water damage.