The One Thing Home Inspectors Want You to Know About Gutters

published Jun 5, 2023
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One of my favorite things about Gothic-style buildings is how they keep rain away from the building structure — generally with rain spouts shaped like gargoyles or some other mythical creature. They do everything a good rain spout needs to do: namely, keep water away from the building’s roof and foundation to prevent problems with structural integrity. 

Such cool features aren’t as typical on modern buildings, though. Instead there are gutters, something less pretty but equally important. Like the gargoyles, they keep water away from the foundations of homes and prevent water from pooling up and causing ice dams in the wintertime. They can also make or break a home inspection.

If you want to make sure your gutters are in tip-top shape, here’s what home inspectors say you should know. 

The single most important piece of advice is to keep your gutters clean.

“Regular maintenance, including cleaning and inspection, is crucial to help avoid unexpected repairs that come from clogged or damaged drains which can cause structural issues and mold growth,” says Dor Wand, home expert at Hippo

Andrei Jablokow, a home inspector with WIN Home Inspection, agrees, noting that you should check your gutters and downspouts twice a year and after big storms.

“Even if the downspouts are connected to an underground system, check the exits so they aren’t clogged with grass and dirt,” Jablokow says. “Go outside in the rain and see if everything is working properly. There should be water coming out of every downspout in heavy rain.”

Credit: ziggy1/Getty Images

You can clean and fix your gutters yourself. 

Here’s what Wand says to do.

  1. Flush your gutters with a hose starting at the end furthest from the downspouts, making sure downspout drains are positioned away from the foundation.
  2. Using gloves, pull any debris from your gutters by hand and use a wire brush to clean out heavy accumulation. It’s always smart to rinse your gutters out after cleaning to remove remaining leaves or dirt.
  3. If you come across tears or holes in your gutter, you’ll need to patch those up to ensure proper drainage. To fix them, you’ll need to visit your local hardware store. Tell them what’s wrong, and they’ll be able to guide you to the correct materials and process. 

Gutters can cause problems with home inspections.

If your gutters aren’t in good shape, a home inspector may value your house lower. It makes sense, too — your foundation or roof could be compromised as a result.

“A home inspector looks for problems associated with poor installation, damage, and deterioration of the gutter and downspout system,” Jablokow says.

They’ll be checking for things like missing or damaged splash blocks, downspouts, and extensions; whether the ground slopes away from the house allowing gutters to keep water from pooling near the foundation; debris or leaves in the gutters; ones that aren’t attached to the home or don’t slope downward; and the placement of gutter end caps. 

“Keep the gutter and downspout system clean and in working order yourself or with the help of a roofing or gutter professional to avoid water getting into the foundation of the house and preserve the life of the roof system,” Jablokow says.