Your gutters are important to your home’s overall well-being. When properly maintained, they protect your roof, your siding and even your foundation. Metal or vinyl materials can last many years, but when things go wrong, they need to be addressed quickly and efficiently. Ask yourself these five questions to keep your gutters in the best condition.


Regular gutter cleaning provides the most important first line of defense against damage. Debris buildup defeats their purpose — clogged gutters can easily be damaged and lead to trouble elsewhere around the home. Experts recommend cleaning your gutters at least twice a year, in spring and summer. If you have heavy foliage around your house, you might even need to do it three or four times a year. If water begins to pool near your foundation or you notice water overflowing during rain, you need to get your gutters cleaned. Don’t forget your downspout, either. A blocked downspout can cause problems as well. Gutter cleaning can be a dangerous job, so you should hire a licensed and insured professional to handle it.


If your gutters sag, you need to address it. Once gutters begin to lean or pull away, the problem gets worse quickly. Your fascia board could rot. Or, the gutters might collapse entirely. Broken spikes and hangers usually cause sagging gutters. Replace this hardware as necessary. Sagging may also indicate that you have gutters that are not appropriate for your house. A professional can tell you if you need to replace them.


If your gutters aren’t blocked, but water is still escaping, you probably have a leak. Leaks sometimes open at the joints between sections. In those cases, you can reseal them. Sometimes, a damaged gutter will crack and begin to leak. You can patch such a leak. But, once a weak spot is established, the problem will likely recur.


Several telltale markers can give you early warning of gutter damage. If paint is peeling on or around them, it may mean standing water is present. Orange flecks also give this problem away. Pools of water or mildew near the foundation indicate that your gutters are not working properly. If you see water marks or water damage beneath the gutters, water is probably escaping. If you see any of these indicators, you need to hire a pro to check them out.


Gutters must be slightly pitched towards the downspout. Most gutters are pitched at 1/8 or 1/16 inch per foot. You usually can’t tell this by looking at it. But, if water pools and there’s no blockage, your gutters are probably improperly pitched. Sometimes, this is because they were installed incorrectly. Or, your house may have settled since installation. Pitch adjustment is a delicate job that must be done precisely. It’s best left to a professional.



Paul F. P. Pogue is a reporter for Angie’s List, a provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers.