It may start with a crackling in the sky or static electricity in the air but before you know it there’s one drop, two… then too many to count, its pouring rain and you need to find a place to take shelter, most often that’s your home. Controlling moisture, preventing roof leaks around vents and skylights, where different cladding materials meet and around windows and doors is one of the most important functions of any home. This is precisely where properly installed flashings and gutters ensure homes can do this.
While you’re inside cozy, dry and warm while it’s driving rain outside, especially if a little wind gets thrown in the mix… your home will be doing its best to perform one of its most important jobs – staying dry. The sounds of pelting rain outside is dulled by your roof covering in cooperation with the geometry of your roof shape and overhangs. All the water congregates, listens to gravity then follows paths intended by the shape of your roof and valleys, directed ultimately by flashings and gutters that need to be properly installed. Here is a link to a helpful article to assist buyers on how to buy the correct gutters and mounting system for your home: Home Tips-Gutter Buyers Guide. The infographic below highlights the areas where and how gutters can become vulnerable to failure.
If gutters become clogged, loose or worse- improperly installed, then they may lose their ability to do their jobs and carry the necessary water in a controlled fashion away from the building envelope and away from the foundation at the ground level. These images show what happens when a clogged gutter meets areas that have not been flashed properly, thus letting water penetrate the wall cladding and rot the interior walls and framing members. Notice it is the very top left gutter that is clogged and loose thus allowing water to backfill and pour back against the cladding eventually making its way behind the cladding and behind the house wrap and rotting the walls from the top down as the pictures below illustrate.
That gutter connection that’s circled in the top left of the first photo would have been a simple fix back when the gutter first clogged and evidence of water running over the gutter and down the wall was first noticed. But without attention the moisture eventually infiltrated, indicated by the arrows in the photos, the wood in the walls, roof and railing in this particular instance. What began as a simple gutter clean out and perhaps some flashing repair became, over time, major structural damage requiring a licensed engineer to determine the extent of the structural wood damage caused by the extensive rotting.
Here is an example of how that area should have been properly flashed to prevent the water seepage into the building envelope
The lesson here is Don’t let small fixes turn into huge ones all because we weren’t being honest with ourselves about that leak or that smell or that cushion in the deck planks. We are all, as homeowners, exposed to the small symptoms of bigger problems in our homes; that bucket we put in the attic or the light fixture we know we can’t use but don’t know why. All of these little indications that our homes need attention shouldn’t be ignored. And eventually they will refuse to be ignored.