Your gutters may not be the most glamorous part of your home or even of your roof system, but they're vital to the health of the entire home. The exterior of your house depends on drainage systems such as yard grading, downspouts, and gutters to keep water moving away from your roof, foundations, and walls.
Water needs to drain away from the side of your home rather than stagnating or pooling, which can place all the wrong kinds of pressure on home structures such as the foundation wall. But in order to function correctly, your gutters need to be regularly cleaned out. Here are some damages your gutters can sustain and cause due to a buildup of dead leaves.
- Pulling away from anchors
The gutter is anchored to the side of your house using hangers screwed to the fascia board. Anytime too much pressure is placed on these connections, your gutters can sag or pull out of their proper alignment.
Dead leaves can add extra weight to the gutters, and once it starts raining they can become soggy and start to block drainage, meaning the gutter has to bear more water weight than it's designed to. Extra weight can be the catalyst for deforming the gutter's side when the gutter hangs off-balance because a connector came loose.
- Warping and bending out of shape
In addition to sagging and pulling away, gutters can torque and become twisted from too much weight. Then, rainwater can escape in a waterfall-like formation over the side of the gutter. In addition to possibly damaging the gutter until it needs replacement, such a waterfall can cause siding leaks and staining, window leaks, and erosion and water damage to your home's foundation.
- Rotting the fascia board
The fascia board can be damaged when the anchors are pulled out by excess gutter weight. But even worse, the board may experience rot when there's a buildup of leaves in the gutter. That's because the leaves tend to hold water after it would otherwise have drained away.
The wet leaves raise the localized humidity, keeping the fascia boards wet so they're more prone to water damage and mold. And of course once they've rotted away, the gutters are much more likely to collapse because there's almost nothing holding the gutter fasteners in place.
- Rusting holes in the gutter
If your gutters are made of metal (common metals are aluminum, steel, and copper), rust may be a threat. Although aluminum and copper don't succumb to rust, steel is highly susceptible. With steel gutters, any water held in place by dead leaves can cause holes and leaks in the gutters themselves.
- Flaking paint
In addition to cleaning, gutters sometimes require repainting. Repainting needs depend on the type of gutter you have, of course (copper ones typically aren't painted, for example). But if your gutters do have a coat of paint, that's another thing that the added moisture of leaves can damage. High humidity levels make paint more likely to peel and flake, lending an untidy appearance that will require repainting to fix.
- Weed roots
As a rich source of organic material, dead leaves compose a large part of the top layers of soil on a forest floor. Plants love to grow in rotting leaves, which is why you shouldn't be surprised if weeds start growing in a neglected, leaf-filled gutter. The roots of plants are much more powerful than you'd expect. In their quest for water and nourishment, roots can cause a lot of damage--in this case, to your gutters.
These are just a few damages that can occur if leaves build up in your gutters. Make sure you have your gutters cleaned at least twice a year!