What Causes Gutters to Leak?

Leaking gutters can be caused by a variety of phenomena.

For the purposes of our conversation here, we will be referring to aluminum gutter systems (vs. copper, wood, etc.).

When discussing a leaking gutter, I am alluding to the actual gutter (the horizontal piece of the gutter system) and not the downspouts (the vertical components of the gutter system) – although many folks do like to refer to downspouts as “gutters” (a pet peeve of mine!).

Downspouts can certainly leak too though.

Many times when downspouts leak, it is simply because the parts of the downspout that are connected to each other are connected upside down (with the piece that is supposed to be dipping into the bottom, hung with the bottom going over the top).

If the downspout is hung this way, naturally water is going to come pouring out of it with each rain.

There are a number of reasons why gutters may leak.

Gutters can leak if the sealant that is located in its corners or seams dries out over a period of time and begins to fail.

If this occurs, the leak can be neutralized with a simple resealing of the area utilizing the proper sealant.

Another way a gutter system can leak is if the gutter system is made out of a thinner gauge aluminum and becomes pitted over time as it oxidizes and eventually develops pinhole type leaks.

In theory these leaks can be fixed with a few different products and processes available on the market (Geocel & Gaco are a couple of good ones), but when a gutter reaches this stage, it is most likely time for it to be replaced.

Perhaps the most notorious reason a gutter system “leaks” is not really a “leak” at all.

Instead, this particular “leak” is caused by the gutter system becoming clogged and water essentially “spilling” over the front or rear of the gutter.

If this occurs and water flows over the backside of the gutter, it is conceivable that it could make its way into the house and show its face as water staining on a ceiling or dripping through a window.

If this occurs and water flows over the front of the gutter, depending on how the gutter system is positioned will dictate whether the water will be coming over the edge as a thin stream or cascading like a waterfall.

Either situation can be easily prevented by making sure your gutter systems are cleaned and flushed every so often.

This does not mean putting a ladder up and picking the leaves and debris out of your gutters once or twice per year.

This means actually testing things by running a hose every so often and making sure that water is properly flowing through the gutter system.

Better yet, the incorporation of a gutter debris protection system can be most beneficial (I prefer the Gutterbrush system).

When clogs occur, they seem to frequently happen at the point where the gutter empties into a downspout below it, it is SUPER important that these points are clean and free of debris.

Gutters can be an invaluable asset for catching and helping to guide water away from your home.

If they are not inspected a couple of times per year however, challenges that stem from a “leaking” gutter can have a serious negative impact on your property.

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