How Do You Know if Your Gutters Need to Be Replaced?

They’re not the most visible part of your house or the biggest investment in your home you’ll ever make, but they’re one of the most important defenses against the elements during the wild seasons here in Oregon.

Gutters that are solid and leak-free defend your foundations against water infiltration by funneling water away from your house, protecting the value of your home.

Gutter systems are often replaced at the same time as a roof, but they don’t necessarily have to be changed together with the roof. You can sometimes repair them instead of replacing them entirely.

Many residential gutters are made of galvanized steel or aluminum, and these can last up to 20 years. Fancier copper gutters can last up to 50 years or longer if they’re well taken care of.

But sometimes you need to replace your gutters more urgently to prevent more costly issues from damaging your home.

That’s why it’s important to know if, and when, your gutters need to be replaced.

Replacing roofs and gutters at the same time

Many roofing contractors suggest replacing the gutters at the same time as they’re replacing the roof, and there are good reasons for doing that.

For starters, you save on labor costs by having the roofing crew onsite to do both jobs. It may also be easier to deal with one roofing company for both the roof and the gutters and having to do it only once.

Most times while reroofing, the gutters have to be removed so that the fascia, drip edges, and flashings can be installed.

Were your gutters fitted properly the first time?

The size and material of the gutters should match the weather here in Oregon and the wear-and-tear they’re likely to endure.

Old, bent, cracked, or corroded gutters help your roof last longer. But if they weren’t fitted properly originally, you may need to replace them faster than you think, before water starts damaging your house.

Why would I have to replace gutters?

You may only find out that you need to repair or replace gutters after you find water damage in your walls, roof, or foundations.

If your gutters weren’t installed properly, your roof won’t have been able to do its job and protect your home.

There are lots of ways things could have gone wrong.

For example:

  • Your gutters were badly installed too high (melting snow can make the gutters pull away) or too low (rainfall falls past the gutter).
  • The gutters were just too small for our wet and snowy Oregon winters.
  • Gutters were badly installed: they can’t funnel water away to the downspouts, or the drip edges weren’t installed well so water is getting to the fascia.

Signs it’s time to replace gutters

Water damage can lead to expensive and complicated repairs, so it’s important to keep an eye on them before water starts causing serious damage to your home. Inspect your gutters often: do it just after heavy showers, to see how they’re redirecting the heavy flow, and also on dry days, so you can check for water marks.

Here’s what to look for:

  1. Pools of water or mold on your exterior house walls or in your basement: Cracked or clogged gutters can let rain leak into the basement or along the walls.
  2. Cracks in the foundation: Damaged gutters can let water drip too close to your home’s foundation instead of funneling it away from the house.
  3. Pools of water: If there’s too much water accumulation in your gutters, it means the gutters are clogged and the water’s not being drained properly.
  4. Hanging or sagging gutters: If your gutters are leaning away from the roof and look like they’re trying to make a quick escape, it’s time to replace them; you likely won’t be able to reattach them.
  5. Cracked, rusted, misaligned, or bent gutters: If you can see these, then they’re clearly already worn and ready to be replaced.
  6. Peeling paint: Notice paint getting damaged? The gutter is probably overflowing and running down your walls.
  7. A bed of nails: If you’re seeing this instead of a bed of flowers on the ground, they may have fallen off the gutters.
  8. Loose fasteners or sagging downspouts: These can be a clear sign that your gutters may need to be repaired or reinstalled to keep your house free from leaks.
  9. Mind the (fascia) gap: If you see gaps between the gutter and the fascia board, you know that’s trouble just waiting to happen.
  10. Water damage under the gutter: Check for rust and water marks or water damage directly under the gutter (wait for a sunny day). This means water is escaping the gutter and damaging the fascia.

Some of these issues can easily be fixed, like loose gutters or cracked downspouts. But other issues may require a complete tear-off and replacement of the gutters. Your roofing company will be able to let you know if you can repair them enough to hang on to them, or if you’ll need new gutters installed.

Maintain Gutters Regularly

Regular maintenance will help protect your gutters and extend their lifespan. You can clean them as part of your roof inspection twice a year, in spring and in the fall. And cast a quick glance at them regularly after large storms or heavy snowfalls.

It’s far easier to fix a problem early on before it causes major damage that’s truly costly to repair.

If you need to repair your roof, consider doing it in late winter or early spring, before the busy period in Summer, when everyone is keen to undertake roof repairs before the rainy Oregon autumn and winter.