Gutters are designed to do one thing -- channel water away from the foundation -- and they're critical to protecting the structural integrity of your house. But in order for gutters to do their job properly, they have to be kept in shape and free of clogs, holes, and sags.
This is the most common problem of all. Left untended, gutters and downspouts get so clogged with debris that they're rendered useless. The excess weight of leaves, twigs, and standing water can also make them sag and pull away from the fascia.
You can unclog your own gutters if you're comfortable on a ladder, don't mind getting wet and dirty, and don't have an extremely tall house. After you've cleared the muck, flush them with a garden hose to make sure they're flowing properly. If you'd prefer, you can hire someone to do the job for you.
Another option for dealing with chronically clogged gutters is to outfit them with gutter covers. These include mesh screens, clip-on grates, and porous foam. They still need regular maintenance, though, and the cost can be more than the gutters themselves.
Sagging Gutters and Gutters Pulling Away from the House This is usually a problem with the hangers, the hardware that secures the gutters to the fascia. They might have deteriorated over time, the fasteners may have backed out of the wood, or they're spaced too far apart to support the weight of full gutters.
Leaks and Holes
Very small holes can be filled with gutter sealant. Larger holes will require a patch. If you can't find a gutter patching kit at the hardware store, you can make a patch from metal flashing.
Improperly Pitched Gutters
Gutters need to be pitched toward the downspouts for the water to flow properly. You want at least a quarter inch of slope for every 10 feet. Get on a ladder after a rainstorm and look in the gutter; if there's standing water, it's not pitched properly.
Too Close to the Foundation Downspouts need to extend several feet from the house, or they'll dump right into the basement. Gutter extensions attached to the bottom of the downspout will discharge water well beyond the foundation. They're inexpensive and easy to install.
Missing Gutters If your house has no gutters at all, consider investing in a system. The cost depends on the material. Most residential gutters are aluminum, which is lightweight and durable. Vinyl, galvanized steel, and copper also are available options.