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Getting to know your home, part 2:

Tyler Merson
Tyler Merson January 12th, 2022

This is my second post on getting to know your home and the importance of keeping it dry. Once you’ve established that your roof is in good shape and has no leaks, you want to look at how water is getting off the roof, down to the ground, and away from the house. Most roofs have gutters along the eaves (bottom edge of the roof) that collect water and bring it to a downspout. A typical gutter looks like this:

The gutter is attached to a board nailed to the end of the roof framing called the fascia. The gutter should slope towards the downspout at one end.

Gutters can be made of aluminum, copper, steel, or wood and can sometimes be built into the roof structure like this:

closeup of a gutter of a roof madison nj

Whichever kind of gutter you have, it is important that the shingles overhang the gutter slightly so that no water can get behind it. It’s also important that the gutters be kept clear of debris, which can clog the downspouts. While I think homeowners should take on any home care project they like, this is one that I would recommend be done by a professional.

The downspouts carry the water from the gutter down to the ground and can also be made of aluminum, steel, copper, or wood. It’s important to make sure they’re not clogged. You can do this by taking a walk around your house during heavy rain and looking at the bottom of the downspout.

Once at ground level, downspouts should pitch out and away from the house. If the ground slopes away from the house, the water will naturally drain away from the foundation. If the ground is flat or slopes toward the house, an additional step, like an extension or a splash block, should be installed to move water away from the house.

Downspouts can also feed into pipes that lead water to a cistern or the sewer (if local code permits). There are many companies that can help you maintain your gutters and downspouts, and some will even monitor your system and recommend repairs and improvements.
In my next post, I’ll discuss foundations and exterior grading.