As a home inspector in Arizona, I inspect the gutters and downspouts as part of the roof portion of the home inspection. Yes, it does rain here in Prescott and Scottsdale!
Some important factors a home seller and buyer should consider include:
- that the guttering system is adequately sized to prevent runoff;
- that the gutters are free of rust, cracks and holes in order to prevent leaking; and
- that the downspouts divert water 4 to 6 feet away from the home’s foundation.
A few inches of rain falling on the roof of a house can produce several thousand gallons of water runoff. This runoff must be channeled away from the home’s foundation. Otherwise, the excess water can quickly saturate the soil surrounding the building and wick through the foundation to the interior. (See Figure 1 below.) Once inside, this moisture can lead to a variety of problems, including mold and wood rot. Excess moisture can also cause indoor air quality problems.
Tips for Homeowners
I relay the following tips to my clients to help them properly and safely maintain their home’s gutter system:
- Observe common-sense safety precautions (and enlist a spotter, if available) when using a ladder to reach the gutter system. Always maintain three points of contact, and don’t over-reach; move the ladder instead.
- If mounting the roof, wear footwear with gripping treads to prevent slipping.
- Wear gloves to protect hands and arms from sharp debris, as well as from animals and insects that may be hiding in the gutters.
- A gutter scoop is a convenient tool for removing leaves and other debris.
- Cleaning gutters can take a substantial amount of water. Place a garden hose in the gutters and downspouts to flush them out, making sure that the water is directed away from the home via the downspouts. This will help reduce the chances of saturating the soil around the foundation.
- Covered gutter systems may be effective in preventing excessive debris buildup, but these are not maintenance-free.
- Homeowners can install a rainwater harvesting system (if allowed in their jurisdiction) that includes a drainage mechanism to handle overflow.
If the home is surrounded by deciduous trees, they may shed their leaves onto the roof and into the gutters. So, I impress upon my clients that regular gutter system maintenance is necessary to prevent moisture intrusion problems. As always, if you have any questions about home inspections feel free to call Sonoran Property Inspections for help.