Rain Gutters

Home | FAQ | Finishing | Sump Pumps | Foundations

When building a house, the contractor must assess the need for rain gutters to handle the roof water. Points to consider include the size of the roof, the width of roof overhangs or soffits at the eaves, the grade or lay and slope of the lawn, whether the house has a basement, and the type of soil. All these factors can affect water runoff and disposal. The builder will make an educated guess on whether the water disposal is sufficient to ensure a dry basement with out gutters. Because gutters can add hundreds or even thousands of dollars to the cost of the house, the builder may err in the direction of his own best interests, and decide not to add rain gutters to the house.

Since World War II, the trend in residential building has been to have wider soffits (i.e., 3 to 4 feet [1 - 1.2 meters] of roof overhang) at the eaves, and to eliminate rain gutters. The wider soffits let the roof water run off the roof and fall to earth at a greater distance from the foundation or basement walls, where a proper grade or slope to the lawn will permit the water to run quickly away from the foundation.

Many homeowners who have problems with a wet basement will refuse to add rain gutters on the theory that if the builder did not install them, they must not be needed. Be aware that the builder just made an educated guess that the house would function without gutters. However, he or she may have miscalculated, so if water problems do develop, consider adding rain gutters to guarantee the proper disposal of roof water to the ground, then correct the grade to ensure runoff.


Avoid getting Gutter Plugs: Install a strainer cap, gutter guard mesh, or clog-free gutters to eliminate problems with gutter debris.

Gutters: D-I-Y or Pro Installation?

To ensure that your house has a well-engineered gutter system, hire a gutter contractor rather than doing the work yourself. Gutters are offered in a variety of sizes, and the size chosen depends on the size of the roof in square feet, i.e., the volume of water that must be handled by the gutters. The gutters also must have a continuous slope toward the downspouts. The size, number, and position of the downspouts must be adequate to quickly carry the water from the gutters to the ground, then to an area that will ensure that there will be quick runoff with no pooling or puddling of the water near the foundation. Once the downspouts have delivered the water to ground level, the ground pipes must be long enough to deliver the water well away—at least 6 feet (2 meters), though more is better—from the foundation. Have a respected professional plan and install the gutter system.


Splash Block: A splash block will prevent soil erosion and divert water at the ground. If space permits, a 6-foot (2 meter) long ground pipe is a better solution.

When consulting a professional gutter contractor, trust his or her advice. Unfortunately, many home owners will reject the pro’s advice, fearing that gutter components will detract from the appearance of the house. I’ve seen large houses with only four downspouts, one at each of the four corners of the house, to carry the water from the gutters to the ground. The length of the gutter run may call for extra downspouts in the center of the run, but because they occur at the midpoint of the house, homeowners may reject them as being unsightly. The inadequate downspouts can't handle the volume of water collected by the gutters, so the gutters fill and overflow along their length. When gutters drop water at the roof edge, rather than delivering it to a diversion point at ground level, water enters the basement as if there were no gutters at all.

The most common mis take that homeowners make with gutters is to neglect or even to eliminate the ground pipes that carry the water away from the foundation. While inspecting wet basements I have found that most downspouts simply dump the water in a pool within 1 or 2 feet (.3 or .6 meters) of the foundation. The water often will then find its way into the basement, rather than flowing away from the foundation.
Top of Page Home Prev: Managing Water Next:

Inspecting The Gutters

Updated: Saturday, May 16, 2009 19:13