Rain gutters do not work as designed for many reasons. The following information describes the main reasons for gutter clogging and their solutions. However, first we must describe rain gutters that do work properly, and why.
Rain gutters that are the correct size for the roof they serve, have the proper number and placement of downspouts, are installed properly and never get debris in them will always work properly. But since virtually all rain gutters do get debris in them, we will now describe each of the clogging problems this debris will cause in properly installed rain gutters…
Rain Gutter Outlets
The first and most common clogging area in all rain gutters is the outlet. The outlet is the component that creates the hole in the gutter at the top of the downspout. As soon as debris gets into any gutter, that debris naturally moves to the outlet because the gutter is pitched toward its outlets. Because present outlets are small, it does not take much debris to clog present rain gutter outlets. Most of these standard outlets also have a lip around their top. This lip is actually a “catching” point for debris. The lip will accelerate outlet clogging because the lip catches debris at the outlet.
The best solution is to changes out these small outlets with larger outlets that have no lip around their top, outlets like The SpoutOff Outlet. Large outlets, 3” deep x 6” long with no lip, ensure that when debris reaches these outlets that debris will fall out of the gutter down into the downspout. The reason this occurs is that these outlets are so wide (3” from front of gutter to back of gutter) that debris is pushed out of the gutter with water flow. You will often see this debris out on the ground at the bottom of your downspout – this is debris that would have clogged a small, standard outlet.
Gutter Corners (Also Known As Gutter Miters)
Often, and especially in heavily treed areas, when debris flows to a gutter corner some debris will begin to get stuck at that corner and will eventually cause additional debris to get stuck there until so much debris is stuck at that corner that it solidifies and water cannot get past it. This will cause water back up in the gutter and even overflowing at these corners.
The first and most obvious solution is to keep these corners clean. But, like keeping small outlets clean, this entails climbing up to each corner to check it and clean it. This is definitely time consuming and can be dangerous.
A better solution is to the extent possible* simply eliminate all rain gutter corners. The way to do this is to run the gutter to the end of the roof and, instead of creating a corner, simply install the downspout at the end of the gutter (elbowed back) and down the side of the house. This eliminates corners.
*This cannot be done in all situations such as hip roofs where corners must be installed.
Spike & Ferrules and Hidden Hangers
Gutter clogging occurs at Spikes and Hidden Hangers (components that fasten gutters to fascia board) when debris gets high enough to touch these fasteners. Debris then collects in the gutter at these fasteners and stops additional debris that finally clogs the gutter to the point that water cannot flow past it. Water will stop here and eventually overflow the gutter at this point.
Gutters must be cleaned as needed – generally in accordance with tree volume around property – to keep Spike/Hanger clogging from occurring. Note: Gutters do have to get a significant amount of debris in them for this clogging to occur. However, be aware that a tennis ball or some large object that gets into a rain gutter could also cause Spike/Hanger clogging to occur.
Not Cleaning Rain Gutters As Needed
This is probably the most common reason that rain gutters clog and do not work properly. We have even given it a name: Gutter Denial. All open rain gutters get debris in them from time to time so they must be cleaned from time to time. If they are never cleaned, at some point in time they will not move water away from a house or building. Which is the whole reason for having rain gutters on a house or building in the first place.
Note: We do understand that a choice to not have rain gutters is a choice some people make. In many regions of the country this works. However, not having rain gutters to direct water far away from a structure does have other issues which are out of the scope of this information.
Be sure all your rain gutters are checked and cleaned at least once a year. Depending on how heavily treed you are, 2, 3, even 4 times a year may be necessary to ensure your gutters always work when it rains. Additional benefit of checking and cleaning your gutters is that any damage that may have been caused to your gutters, like a large dent from a fallen tree branch, a hole in the gutter, etc. will be noticed when checked and can be fixed before it gets worse or causes new damage to your home or building.