Learn why gutters are the first line of defense against a host of problems and find out how to repair damaged gutters. Get tips on fixing sags, leaky joints and holes.
LESLIE: Well, rain gutters aren’t a very exciting or even attractive part of a home and you hardly notice them until something goes wrong.
TOM: Ah, yes. But then it’s the wrong kind of excitement. You know, if your gutters become damaged, you need to make repairs quickly to avoid further and long-lasting damage deep inside the house. Here to tell us exactly how to do that is This Old House  general contractor, Tom Silva .
TOM SILVA: Well, thank you. It’s nice to be here.
TOM: It’s great to see you again.
I think most people think that gutters are just there to keep water from running off the roof and onto your head. But they actually have a pretty important structural role, as well, don’t they?
TOM SILVA: They have a very important structural role, not only to the sidewall of the house but to the foundation or the basement of the house, letting water go into the basement. And then you’ve got to think about splash-back off of a roof that would need a gutter. The splashing on the ground, the water coming up, it’s going to rot the seal in the first couple of courses of your siding. So gutters are very, very important.
TOM: There’s a lot of things that could go wrong if you don’t have a functioning gutter system.
LESLIE: Now, what’s the first step to make sure that your gutter system is effective?
TOM SILVA: Well, I would say the first step is to make sure that the gutters are pitched right, make sure that the water goes into the downspout and the downspout leads away from your house so it doesn’t settle the water right there at the foundation.
TOM: And that’s a great point because I tell you, time and time again, I’ve seen builders and even gutter contractors install those downspouts  so they drop a grand total of about 6 inches to a foot away from the house. And that dumps a lot of water.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Oh and here’s your splash guard. Good, done.
TOM SILVA: Exactly, exactly.
TOM: Yeah. And that dumps all that water right there were it can go right down to the basement or at least wash out the soil right in the [backfield zone] (ph).
TOM SILVA: It can wash out the soil, it can create a trough and collect there, run down. And you can actually get water in the basement through a crack in the foundation.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I mean we’ve had that happen in my own home. A downspout was clogged and it caused a major leak in the basement, completely on the opposite side of the house from that clogged downspout. But that was the culprit that caused a huge mess.
TOM SILVA: Absolutely.
TOM: But the thing is they’re pretty easy to fix. So any tricks of the trade for taking care of those sags, for example?
TOM SILVA: Well, yeah. Let’s say you have an aluminum gutter that’s sagged in the middle and now that gutter  may be put up with spikes and ferrules. Now, a spike is a long spike that goes through the gutter and into the substrate, like a …
TOM: It’s like a super-long nail, right?
TOM SILVA: Exactly.
TOM SILVA: And in the middle of that, in between the gutter, the spike goes through the face of the gutter through a ferrule. And then that ferrule keeps the gutter from pushing in if you ever leaned a ladder against it. So it’s …
TOM: So a ferrule is essentially like a thin, aluminum pipe.
TOM SILVA: It’s a big spacer, exactly.
TOM: Got it, got it.
TOM SILVA: Yep, yep.
TOM: OK. So the spikes pull out. What do we replace them with? More spikes?
TOM SILVA: No. Because the spike is pulled out; it’s done its time. They have – basically have a long screw – a gutter screw – that will screw into that rafter tail and it won’t pull up.
LESLIE: Now, what about if you’re dealing with a gutter system that maybe has holes or the joinery where the two pieces meet, there’s a leak there? How do you fix that?
TOM SILVA: Well, they have actually sealants that you can put in there. But before you put the sealant in there, you’ve got to make sure the gutter is really clean and dry. When you put the sealant in there, you want to put a good amount in there and you want to feather it out, especially around the outlet. You don’t want to create a dam; you want the water to fall right into that hole.
TOM: Good point. Now, Tommy, we shouldn’t really talk about fixing damaged gutters without talking about our favorite season of the year: fall. And they call it “fall” for a very good reason. What’s your favorite gutter guard or gutter cover to keep those leaves out?
TOM SILVA: Oh, boy. There’s a lot of them out there. There’s a mesh that you can put right in the gutter now and leaves fall on it and they blow away. There’s a type of gutter product that you can slide up underneath the second course of shingles and it’ll act like a lip that the rain will collect to that, surface tension will pull the water in but the debris won’t go in. And they actually have one-piece gutters that basically have a helmet on the top. Water surface tension brings it in but there’s just a little slit across the front.
TOM: All built into one.
TOM SILVA: All built into one.
TOM: Now, that makes a lot of sense because let’s face it, there’s no need to buy two separate products here. We have the technology; we should be able to extrude a gutter that has the gutter protector right built into it.
TOM SILVA: All in one, yeah.
TOM: Great advice. Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
TOM SILVA: It’s a pleasure being here.
TOM: For more tips just like that, you can visit ThisOldHouse.com.
LESLIE: And you can learn a lot more by watching Tommy and the entire This Old House team on This Old House and Ask This Old House on your local PBS station.
TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you by the National Association of Realtors.