Why Are Gutters, Downspouts and Splash Blocks Important?

Gutter_shutterstock_147483605Gutters, downspouts and splash blocks are used to move water away from a house or building, protecting the exterior surfaces of the home, the foundation and landscaping materials from water damage.

  • Gutters are valleys that can be made of a variety of materials and which are located on the edge of the roof.
  • Downspouts connect to the gutters to contain the water on its way to the ground.
  • Splash blocks are found at the end of the downspouts to disperse water away from the foundation.

A variety of gutter systems are available, depending on the type of home, slope of the roof and aesthetic concerns. Gutters on residential homes may or may not have seams, may be attached to the outside of the roof, or may be an integral part of the soffit. Gutters are made of plastic or metal, and they may have screens on top to prevent large debris from causing clogs. Leaks are most common at the seams, elbows and corners of gutters.

Drainage on flat roofs, generally found more often on commercial buildings, can be accomplished with gutters and downspouts, an interior drainage system or scuppers. Scuppers are holes cut in walls that extend above a roof line. Generally a downspout is connected to the scupper to move water away from the building.

Damaged or leaking gutters can allow water to stain walls and ceilings, pool against the foundation, or seep into the walls damaging the frame.

An unbiased, independent inspection by your NPI or GPI inspector includes a thorough examination of the home’s gutters and downspouts to provide the information you need for.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home from roof to foundation. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for your next home inspection.

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Icicles Signal Problems for Home Owners

IciclesThis winter, take special note of any icicles hanging from your roof. Small icicles are normal, but large, thick icicles can be dangerous if they fall and usually spell trouble for your home. Fortunately, most problems that cause icicles can be remedied easily.

Icicles typically indicate ice damming on your home’s roof, a problem usually caused by insufficient or missing insulation and ventilation in your attic and between your house and your attic. During the winter, this warms the roof, causing snow to melt more rapidly and move down the roof to the overhang, where it refreezes in the form of icicles. It can also cause an ice dam to form, which eventually pushes the water up under the roof’s shingles. This damages the roof and gutters, and it can lead to water intrusion causing leaks in ceilings or walls, or soaking insulation, which would make it ineffective. As if those problems weren’t bad enough, ice dams can cause structural decay and rot to your house, or cause mold and mildew to form in your attic and on wall surfaces.

Try the following remedies to reduce or eliminate ice damming and the damage it causes:

  • Seal all holes or gaps connecting your heated living space and your attic.
  • Ensure that the attic is properly insulated.
  • Attached with clips along the roof’s edge in a zigzag pattern, heated cables prevent ice dams, allowing you to equalize your roof’s temperature by heating it from the outside instead of blowing in cold air from the outside.
  • Use an aluminum roof rake to pull snow off of your roof.
  • Install a ridge vent and continuous soffit vents to circulate cold air under the entire roof.
  • Make sure that ducts connected to the kitchen, bathroom and dryer vents all lead outdoors through either the roof or walls — never through the soffit.
  • Seal gaps between chimneys and the house framing with L-shaped steel flashing held in place with unbroken beads of a fire-stop sealant.
  • DO NOT attack an ice dam with a hammer or other tool to chop it up, as you could cause further damage to your roof. If necessary, contact a roofing company to steam the ice dam off.
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Top Five Problems Revealed During a Home Inspection

By Kenn Garder, National Accounts Manager and Technical Support, NPI/GPI

Purchasing a house is a major decision, and a home inspection report can be used to assist in the decision-making process. Here are some of the more common issues found during a home inspection.

Poor Grading and Drainage
Water should run away from any structure to help prevent moisture intrusion. If the soil around a house slopes toward the house, or if water pools around the perimeter of the foundation, that moisture can create hydronic pressure in the soil that can move the foundation, causing cracks and leaks that can lead to extensive damage and expensive repairs. If water wicks into the wood framing members, the wood will rot over time. This moisture also provides a haven for wood-destroying organisms (WDO) because it provides a water and food source.

Erosion around the perimeter of a house may be caused by water spilling over gutters due to clogged downspouts or downspouts that terminate near the foundation. Downspout extensions or spill ways can be installed to keep water away from the foundation.

Roof Coverings
The roof of a house is designed to withstand most of what Mother Nature can dish out, whether it be rain, wind or sun. If installed properly, the roof should keep water out of the home.

The life expectancy for roof coverings varies depending on the material. Asphalt composite shingles, for instance, typically have a life expectancy of 15 to 25 years. As the roof covering ages, it can become more susceptible to water infiltration and leaking.

Plumbing Problems
Notice a theme here? Controlling water is one of the most important issues in home maintenance.

Leaking supply water and drain lines can cause damage to walls and floors, or they can become the water source for mold and mildew. Outdated (galvanized) or problematic systems (polybutylene) can develop leaks more frequently. Wax rings under toilets can develop leaks and damage the floor around the toilet or the ceiling below.

Electrical Issues
House fires caused by faulty wiring and overloading circuits are common. It is not unusual for a home inspector find evidence of DIY additions to a home’s electrical system. Many times these additions work but were not done properly, causing safety issues.

Exposed wire connections and double taps in the panel are also common problems. If your home inspector finds these or other electrical issues, he/she will recommend that you have the system evaluated and repaired by a qualified licensed electrician

HVAC Havoc
Inadequate maintenance of the HVAC equipment is common. Dirty condenser coils on the air conditioner condenser unit and dirty furnace filters can lead to major repairs. The equipment may be at or near its life expectancy and need to be replaced. Gas-fired furnaces may not burn properly.

With proper maintenance, an HVAC system can continue to heat and cool the house, but many times heating and cooling systems are “out of sight out of mind.”

This is a sampling of typical issues found during a home inspection. These items may vary depending on the geographical location of the property and the overall maintenance of the property.

Looking for a professional, qualified home inspector in your area? In the United States, visit http://npiweb.com/FindAnInspector. In Canada, visit http://gpiweb.ca/FindAnInspector.

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Home Inspection 101: Inspecting a Home’s Grading

Submitted by Ken Roleke, NPI Franchise Owner, Tucson, Arizona

New House + Landscaping_iStock_000002119557SmallAn important component of a home inspection that is not always obvious to the home buyer is the grading of the yard. I have seen homes that are meticulously maintained inside but have poor grading, even holes in the yard. Unfortunately, grading is often considered a low priority, but the effects of improper grading can be disastrous.

Rainwater ponding outside, or worse, running toward the house, can wreak havoc. Basements can flood, damaging items in the basement, as well as drywall, carpet and more. Even a slab-on-grade house with no basement is susceptible to water damage, as it could develop mold from water seeping into the walls, and the moisture could attract termites. Furthermore, standing water in cold climates can freeze and damage brick paver decking and other hardscapes.

The ideal grading that the home inspector should look for is for the ground to slope away from the house in all directions a half inch per foot. Other factors besides the slope of the ground can cause problems, including downspouts that disperse water right against the building, instead of directing it away, and vegetation that holds water and keeps it from draining away.

If the property looks like it has drainage problems, then the best way to know for sure is to check during or immediately after a rainstorm. When this is not practical, the inspector could try running a hose in the questionable area.

While the best and most foolproof way to remedy the grading is to build up the ground to slope away from the house in all directions, it’s often just not possible. Small lot sizes, the elevation of the house, where the house transitions from foundation to framed wall, the elevation of the neighbor’s land, existing vegetation, hardscape and accessory buildings, and especially cost are all factors in the equation.

Remedies for improper grading include connecting downspouts to a pipe to direct the roof rainwater further away from the house and French drains, which are basically a trench filled with gravel or perforated pipe that catches the water in the yard and directs it away from the house.

For more information about grading, read our previous post, “What’s Your Grading Grade?

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What’s Wrong With This Photo?

Snapshot From the FieldA. This is better than no downspout.
B. This downspout is probably not large enough to adequately disperse water out of the gutter.
C. This is large enough to handle any amount of water collected in the gutter.
D. This pipe makes it easy to connect any size downspout to the gutter.

 Correct Answer:B. This downspout is probably not large enough to adequately disperse water out of the gutter.

 

 

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Proper Length of Downspout Extensions

What is the proper length for downspout extensions? The short answer is, “as long as it needs to be to divert the water away from the home’s foundation.” But how long is that?

It really depends on the grading around the foundation. If your yard slopes toward the house, then your downspout extensions are going to need to be longer than if your yard slopes away from the house. Typically the rule of thumb for downspout extensions is a minimum of 2 to 3 feet; however if your grading is sloped toward the house, the extension may need to be 4 feet or longer to prevent water from accumulating around the foundation.

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Gutter Maintenance for the Home Owner

Submitted by Jon McCreath, NPI Franchise Owner, Emerson, Georgia

McCreath1Gutter systems are one of the most important components of a home, yet they are oftentimes one of the most overlooked items when it comes to home maintenance. Gutter systems are designed to protect a building’s foundation by channeling water away from it. Gutters, if maintained properly, can also prevent soil erosion and foundation leaks, as well as protect the exterior surfaces of a dwelling from deterioration and rotting. Fortunately, gutter maintenance is typically an easy DIY for homeowners, or if you desire to have a professional maintain your gutter system, it can be done so relatively inexpensively. Either way, a gutter maintenance program can prevent long-term problems and expensive repairs.

Your Gutter System
Gutter systems — which include the gutters, downspouts and extensions — are typically made of steel, aluminum or vinyl. Steel gutters are generally stronger and longer lasting than their aluminum and vinyl counterparts, as those products can be susceptible to ladder damage. Galvanized steel products can be susceptible to rust if not properly maintained. Most of today’s homes will likely have a steel or aluminum product in place.

Current standards suggest that a horizontal run of gutter should have a downspout for every 35-40 feet of run. However, attention should be given to the pitch of the roof as well as the number of slopes that are directed to a single downspout. The steeper the slope, the greater the velocity of water runoff. Gutters should have a 1/4-inch of slope per 10 feet of run. Extensions and splash blocks should extend 3 to 6 feet away from the foundation.

Gutter Problems
McCreath2The most common maintenance issue for gutters is clogging. Gutters can become clogged with leaves and other debris, including the granules from shingles. Continued water runoff can create a sludge-like condition that will eventually render the gutter system useless. It is suggested that gutters be cleaned at least one to two times a year. Unless it is a safety concern, you can generally clean your own gutters, as hiring a professional to do so is usually inexpensive.

Sometimes a clogged gutter will lead to another common issue: sagging gutters. Once a gutter is clogged with debris, the standing water and debris can weigh down the gutters and pull them away from their hangers or attachments to the home. However, it isn’t always a clogged gutter that leads to sagging. Through time, hangers can deteriorate and fasteners can simply back out due to expansion and contraction. The good news is that this is also an inexpensive DIY project to add more hangers, or re-secure the existing.

Leaks at gutter seams are also something to keep an eye on. Another easy DIY: Simply apply a gutter sealant at the seam/joint and be sure to allow 24 hours for curing.

Take the time and do an annual inspection of your gutter system. Avoiding these common issues by implementing a gutter maintenance program is the No. 1 way to prevent expensive water damage problems to your home.

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