Like most places in the world, gutter systems are not mandatory in South Africa for sloping roofs.
Home improvements can be costly and time-consuming. Homeowners have to be discerning when choosing their projects.
An effective gutter system is an excellent investment that could save you huge amounts of money down the line.
Uncontrolled rainwater could easily compromise your home's foundation over time, as well as cause other serious kinds of structural damage.
We will explore why you need a gutter system and everything you need to know before undertaking this project.
What Are Gutters & How Do They Work?
Gutters are one part of a water discharge system designed to redirect rainwater away from the house.
The gutters extend slightly outwards at the eaves or leading edge of a roof where they can easily collect rainwater.
Rainwater flows off the roof's slope into the gutter and onto the ground below via the downspouts.
Additional parts of the gutter system further redirect the water away from the home.
Why Are Gutters Important?
Arguably, the biggest job of a gutter system is to protect the foundation from water damage.
Rainwater can erode the soil under the roof and begin to seep into the foundation. The home's foundation can become weak over time.
Similarly, the gutter system protects the basement from flooding. Pools of water next to the house may leak into the basement.
Additionally, a gutter system helps to preserve your landscaping. Rainwater falls off the roof with considerable force and may create gorges or ditches in your yard.
The water may also create pools in lower areas and flood your lawn, flowerbed, and other vegetation.
Water running off your roof and onto the side of the house can damage your doors, windows, or siding.
You may also notice unsightly stains, mould, and mildew on the side of the house in this case.
Moreover, gutters make it easier to go in and out of the house during heavy rains since water won't be beating down on you from the roof edge.
Components of A Gutter System
A good gutter system comprises of many parts. The most important ones include:
Gutters – Strictly speaking, gutters are the shallow troughs that collect the rainwater.
Hanging Brackets – Also called gutter hangers, these metal contraptions secure the gutter troughs in place.
Corner Joints – Corner joints are v-shaped and connect two gutter troughs when the system runs into the home's side. The corner joints prevent water from spilling out of the gutters. Sometimes endcaps are used as a replacement for corner joints where the gutter system reaches a dead end. The end cap blocks water from flowing out of an open end.
Downspouts – The downspouts connect to the gutters and release water safely away from the house. Downspouts are conveniently located so that the water can drain off safely.
Splash Block – The splash block sits just below the downspout to prevent the water from splashing on the ground. The force of the water can erode the soil if not for the splash block.
Material Choice For Your Gutter System
Gutters come in various materials, so homeowners have options depending on their budget, preference, and aesthetic demands.
Aluminium is the most common gutter material. This option is weather resistant and is affordable.
You can paint over the aluminium and expect it to retain its look for a long time.
Aluminium is also lightweight and easy to install and is available in various thicknesses (.025 inch, .027 inch, and .032 inch) if you want a strong gutter system.
The main downside of this option is aluminium is prone to denting and damage by falling branches or if you lay a ladder on them.
PVC is becoming increasingly popular for its cheap cost. These gutters are the most affordable in the group.
They are available in several colours and are scratch-resistant. Additionally, PVC comes in sections that snap together, making it incredibly easy to install.
You can also easily replace damaged sections rather than having to replace the entire system.
PVC doesn't rust or corrode and has a decent lifespan if installed properly, especially in mild climates.
On the downside, these gutters can begin to crack and weaken in extreme cold.
You can get a few steel gutter options, including galvanized steel and stainless steel.
Galvanized steel is heavy and durable and can be specially coated to prevent rusting. Galvanized steel comes in different colour options and can be painted to match the house.
Stainless steel gutters are impervious to rust but cost more than galvanized steel. This option can last for many years without losing its original shine.
Also, stainless steel gutters are nearly indestructible. You will definitely need professional installation for steel gutters, given their heavyweight.
Copper gutters are perhaps the most beautiful gutters on the market.
These gutters become even more appealing with age as copper is weather-worn. People who prefer an old-world aesthetic will love this option.
Copper is incredibly durable and can easily last 100 years or for the lifespan of the home. The material is weather-resistant, and you will need professional installation.
The only downside is that copper gutters are very pricy.
Gutter Shapes & Sizes
Gutters come in a variety of shapes, so you have some flexibility if you are keen on aesthetics.
Half-round gutters are an older style and are made from half-round tubes.
This option is ideal for homeowners who want to retain the traditional or historic look of their homes.
You can get these gutters in the typical gutter materials like aluminium, stainless steel, and copper.
You can also choose from reverse bead style, single-bead style, and double bead style.
Fascia gutters perform the normal functions of a gutter system with the added advantage of being a fascia board.
You will typically find this system where fascia boards haven't yet been installed.
This option has a clean, seamless look.
K-style gutters are the most modern, and you will see them in newer houses.
The gutters have flat backs and bottoms. The exterior features decorative features such as curves. This design looks like crown moulding and is beautiful to look at.
K-style gutters are also very flexible and can be custom made on-site to get a perfect fit for your home.
The typical gutter sizes are 4-inches, 5-inches, and 6-inches.
Five inches is considered standard for most residential homes, but there are exceptions.
Half-round gutters are shallower than the K-Style alternative, so you may want to go with bigger gutters or six inches.
Additionally, you may want to go with the six-inch option if you have two levels of gutters, one draining to the other.
Six-inch gutters are also good for gutter systems that rely on a single downspout to drain water.
If in doubt, please consult with a professional.
These gutters also come in varying thicknesses. As a rule of thumb, the thicker the gutters, the more durable and sturdy.
Copper gutters are measured in weight rather than thickness.
Problem With A Bad Gutter System Design
There are a few common problems that you can expect from a poorly designed or poorly installed gutter system. These problems include:
- Gutters seem to be pulling away from the house.
- Water running down the side of your house.
- Water stuck in the gutter despite cleaning the gutter and unclogging blocks.
- Pools of water near the house despite proper downspout placement.
- Dry patches at the downspouts indicating the system isn't draining rainwater efficiently.
6 Tips For An Effective Gutter System
A few tips for installing an effective gutter system should come in handy.
- Get the correct gutter size: You may want some professional input here. Many vendors also have a gutter size calculator like this one.
- Angle the gutters: Angle the gutters slightly to make sure that the water flows freely to the downspout. The gutter should be pitched towards the downspout, roughly a quarter of an inch every three to six meters.
- Position the downspout correctly: Where possible, install the downspouts near the corners. You will also need a downspout at each end of a gutter running more than six meters. Install a third downspout in the middle if the gutter runs more than 12 meters.
- Check the seals: Ensure you have tight seals between two gutter pieces or where the downspout connects to the gutter. Allow sufficient time for the sealant to dry before pouring a jug of water and inspecting the seals for leaks.
- Direct your drainage: Watch out for gas meters, electric meters, walkways, fences, and other obstructions when directing your drainage.
- Hire a professional: The only way to guarantee an effective gutter system is to hire a professional for the job. A poorly installed gutter system is just as bad as not having one, except a lot more expensive. Professional installers will get the job done right the first time.
Gutter System Care & Maintenance
Routine care and maintenance is the best thing you can do for the longevity of your gutter system.
- Clean your utters thoroughly at least twice a year. Preferably, once in September/November ad again in March/May.
- Pour water into your gutters after cleaning and look out for leaks. There is no such thing as a small leak. Perform the necessary repairs as they appear.
- Be alert for signs of a clogged gutter system during the rainy season. Where possible, clear away debris as it can cause the gutters to overflow. Litter also creates the perfect environment for birds and critters to nest.
- Watch out for flaking paint on your gutter system. This is a sign of water damage. Contact a professional to diagnose and repair the problem.
- Reinforce the gutter system as soon as you notice it pulling away from the house. The gutters can collapse any time, requiring expensive repairs or replacement.
Frequently Asked Questions
1) Where Should Gutter Downspouts Be Placed?
Place your gutter downspouts near the corners of the house where possible, preferably out of sight. Ensure that the ground around the downspouts slopes away from the home to avoid pools of water.
2) When To Use Gutter Hoppers?
You can use gutter hoppers if you have multiple gutters connected to a single drain pipe or when using a waterspout. Gutter hoppers are also good for decorative purposes.
3) Where Does Gutter Water Go?
Depending on how your system is set up, gutter water may go to storage, such as a water tank or barrel, to a drainage pit, or to the city's main drainage system.
4) What Are The Pros And Cons Of Gutter Guards?
Gutter guards help to prevent large leaves and debris from falling into the gutters. This reduces the chances of rust and pests. On the other hand, the guards can be pricey and are not foolproof.
There is a good reason why most homes have gutter systems.
You don't even have to break the bank given options such as aluminium and PVC.
This relatively simple home improvement could save you a lot of money and heartache in the future.