Heavy or consistent rain can often uncover an ineffective overflowing gutter system. This problem can damage your house and landscaping. So, you may be wondering if your gutters are too small. We have done the research and brought you the answer to this question - including a guide on how to increase gutter capacity.
Your gutters might be too small if they consistently overflow during heavy rain. However, before replacing your old small gutters with new larger gutters, here are a few things to check:
- Gutter cleanliness
- Downspout cleanliness
- Existence of gutter guards and downspout filters
- Gutter pitch, tilt, and sag
- Gutter positioning
- Downspout frequency
- Existence of valley splash guards
As you can see, there are quite a few things to check before simply getting new, larger gutters. To get details on how to take the steps recommended above, keep reading.
How To Improve Gutter Capacity
Check out the following things to improve your gutter capacity.
Cleaning your gutters should be the first step you take if you notice gutter overflow. Gutters fill up with leaves, twigs, and dirt that fall off overhanging trees and get carried in by the wind. This issue is easy to fix and can be done yourself or by calling a professional.
If you are going to clean your gutters on your own, there are a few different strategies for cleaning gutters. These include using your hands or a trowel to scoop out debris and using a hose attachment to pressure wash the gutters out.
Cleaning With Your Hands
If you are using your hands or trowel, you'll need a ladder that is properly sized to reach all of your gutters. Be very certain you are using a long enough ladder and are using the ladder properly so as to not injure yourself. Also, do not access your gutters from your roof, as the risk of falling is high.
Once you have reached the gutter, scoop out the gunk using your hands, or a small tool. Wear gloves to keep your hands clean and to avoid injury on potentially sharp objects. It is easiest to have a bucket or bag with you to put the trash into as you go.
Cleaning With A Hose Attachment
For a simpler job, use a special hose attachment designed for cleaning gutters. With this attachment, you can safely walk along the ground as you pressure wash the gunk out of your gutters.
Once you have hosed out your gutters, you will have a bit of a mess to pick up around the yard. Most feel that this inconvenience is well worth keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground during the gutter cleaning project.
It is most important to clean your gutters after the leaves come down in the fall, or after other wind events. It is usually necessary to clean gutters once or twice a year. As you get used to monitoring gutter cleanliness, you will notice that some areas collect more leaves and dirt than others. Monitor these areas to know when it is time to clean your gutters.
Once you have cleaned your gutters, it is smart to also check your vertical gutters, or downspouts. To check downspout cleanliness, simply put a hose near the downspout top. A clear downspout should allow the water to easily flow. If your downspout is clogged, here are a few steps you can take to unclog it:
Often, simply running a hose stream of water down the spout will clean it out. If that does not work, next, used gloved hands or a trowel to check the bottom and top openings. If these spots seem clean, try upping the water pressure and tapping along the length of the downspout to dislodge any clogs.
If you still have a blocked downspout, you can try using tools such as a shop-vac or leaf blower to blow/suck the clog out. As a final resort, you can take the downspout apart. All you usually need for this is a screw gun or screwdriver. Take off corners first as these are the most likely to get clogged. Once clean, be sure to put the gutters back how you found them.
Existence Of Gutter Guards And Downspout Filters
If you discover that gutter and downspout cleaning is not the job for you, you can install gutter guards and downspout filters. These keep out most debris destined for your gutters, thus decreasing cleaning frequency. They are relatively easy to install on your own.
Gutter guards, or gutter screens, can be installed with the use of nothing but a ladder, a pair of snips, and a screw gun. Before taking on this project on your own, watch a few instructional videos or get some advice from a local hardware store or handyman.
The only downside to gutter guards is that they restrict the amount of flow that can enter the gutters. For areas with very heavy downpours, these products may not be best. However, for areas with consistent lighter rain and lots of leaves, gutter guards can be an excellent investment.
Downspout filters are even easier to install than gutter guards. Wearing gloves, simply squeeze the bottom of the filters into the top end of the downspout. These filters are easy to take out and clean after installation and help avoid the pesky task of cleaning clogged downspouts.
Ensuring that your gutters and downspouts stay clear with the proper guards and filters will help increase gutter water capacity over the long run while reducing the need for frequent gutter cleanings.
Gutter Pitch, Tilt, And Sag
Sometimes gutters are installed with improper pitch and tilt. Other times these issues, or sagging, develop over time. Either way, it is relatively easy to check whether these factors are an issue for your gutter system. All you'll need is a level or a sharp eye. No level needed for obvious sagging areas.
Gutters should be installed so that the front and the back of the gutters are level. This is the tilt. A tilt of zero degrees is desired because a gutter that is level from back to front can hold the most water. Tilt can begin to fail over time due to aging attachment systems or degrading facia board.
The pitch of the gutter refers to the line the gutter takes along the roof. Many contractors install gutters with a pitch of zero to improve curb appeal. If you are having problems with gutter capacity, adding in a slight pitch can be an easy solution. It allows more water to run through your gutters more quickly. Generally speaking, 1/4 inch of slope over 10 feet is a good pitch.
If you have an improper pitch, tilt, or just obvious sags in your gutter, it reduces gutter capacity. Fixing this issue means redoing the gutter attachment system. This can sometimes involve replacing rotten boards. But it often only requires replacing gutter spikes, gutter screws, or gutter brackets. All of these are different types of systems designed to attach your gutters to your roof.
Fixing these issues takes a little more home improvement know-how but can still be done yourself. Be sure to do your research first, or ask a local expert. Generally, it is easier to install screws during gutter remodels than spikes (even if you took spikes out). Either way, proper tilt, pitch, and removing sags can improve gutter capacity.
Your gutters should be positioned under the drip edge of the roof. All this means is that the water from your roof drains into the trough of the gutter instead of in front or behind it. You can change your gutter position in the same way that you fixed pitch and tilt. Properly positioned gutters are far more effective than poorly positioned ones.
Downspouts provide your gutter water a place to escape to the ground in a controlled fashion. If you have too few downspouts, it can cause your gutters to overflow. Adding a few more strategically placed downspouts can increase gutter capacity much more easily than upgrading your whole gutter system to a larger size.
Taking into account water load during rain, curb appeal, and drainage space on the ground, you can inspect your gutter system for additional downspout locations. To match existing downspouts, take a picture before you go to the store to buy new material. This project might also require calling an expert, but should not prove too difficult for a dedicated homeowner.
Existence Of Valley Splash Guards
Roof valleys collect the most water and are often the areas where gutter overflow occurs first. Such overflow can be mitigated by installing valley splash guards. These guards essentially extend the far lip of your gutter corner and allow the rush of water to flow throughout the gutter system.
How Do You Know What Size Your Gutters Are?
To measure gutter size, simply hold a ruler or a tape measure on top of your gutters. The distance from the back to the front of the top gutter opening is the size. Most residential gutters are about 5 inches wide.
Are Wider Gutters Better?
Wider gutters hold and carry more water. So, if your issue is gutter capacity, then wider gutters are better. However, wider gutters are also more expensive and not the standard. This only becomes an issue during repairs and additions, when parts may be slightly harder to come by.
What Kind Of Damage Can Clogged Gutters Cause?
Clogged gutters can lead to extensive damage to the yard and home. If the water runs out the back of the gutters, towards the home, it can seep into the siding, facia, roofing, and more. This issue can lead to rot and pest infestation.
If the water runs off the outside of the gutter, towards the yard, there are several types of damage that it can cause. It can pool up alongside the house (causing home damage), it can erode away landscaping, and it can cause serious damage to sidewalks and other concrete pathways.
So, Are Your Gutters Too Small?
If you have taken the above recommended steps, and still find that your gutters are routinely overflowing, your gutters might be too small. If this is the case you can upgrade your gutter size from 5-inch gutters to 6-inch gutters. Re-guttering an entire house is an extensive undertaking and may be best left to the professionals.
It is far cheaper to repair, clean, and/or modify your gutter system to handle heavier water flow than it is to deal with the types of damage that gutter overflow can cause. Take the time to ensure your gutters are functioning properly for less long-term headaches. Good luck!