Rain gutters can be taken for granted. As long as they work, you do not even think about them. However, when they stop working, you are faced with a dilemma – should you undertake rain gutter repair or install replacement gutters? Here are three factors to consider in deciding whether to repair or replace rain gutters:
Before jumping into repair versus replacement for leaky rain gutters, we should back up and explain leaks. Rain gutters can leak for a variety of reasons, including overflowing, separations at the seams, and cracked or corroded rain gutters. All three of these types of leaks can be reduced by gutter cleaning.
Specifically, water may overflow gutters because debris has clogged the gutters or caused them to deform or corrode due to the weight of accumulated water. Regular gutter cleaning can prevent leaks due to overflowing, deformation, cracking, and corrosion.
Once leaks begin, the decision whether to repair or replace the rain gutters depends on why the rain gutters are leaking.
- Rain gutter cleaning may resolve leaks due to overflowing. Keep in mind that overflowing may require not just gutter cleaning, but also downspout cleaning.
- Rain gutter repair may be possible if leaks come from separation at the seams. Specifically, the seams may be sealed, thereby stopping the leaks.
- Rain gutter repair may be possible if leaks come from bent rain gutters, if the gutters can be bent back into shape.
- Rain gutter replacement may be necessary if leaks are caused by cracked gutters or gutters that are too deformed to be repaired.
Corrosion is a chemical process in which a material changes into a more stable form due to exchanging electrons through an electrolyte. Put another way, iron and iron alloys like steel oxidize in the presence of water because iron oxide (or rust) is a more stable form than iron.
The problem is that although rust is more chemically stable than iron, it is not as strong. This allows further damage as pits and small holes grow into large holes and cracks as water works its way underneath paint to corrode the metal.
Corrosion cannot be reversed. Once steel rusts, it will remain rusted. Thus, repair or replacement will depend on the extent of the corroded material.
- Rain gutter repair may be possible if rust has just started and is limited to small pits or holes that can be patched or sealed and painted.
- Rain gutter repair may be possible if the rust is limited to a specific part, such as a downspout elbow, that can be replaced without replacing the entire rain gutter.
- Rain gutter replacement may be necessary if rust is extensive or has affected multiple parts of the gutter system.
Rain gutters sag due to being unable to withstand the weight of the gutter plus water. Since a gallon of water weighs eight pounds, clogged gutters can hold hundreds or thousands of pounds of rain water. Thus, the risk of sagging gutters is reduced by regular rain gutter cleaning so that water can drain from the system. Rain gutters can also sag due to snow and ice, damage to the roof or gutters due to falling objects like trees or tree branches, or hangers and brackets naturally loosening from the house.
Sagging rain gutters can fail to drain properly because water accumulates at the lowest point. If the lowest point is not near a drop outlet for a downspout, the accumulated water can overflow, cause corrosion, bend or deform the gutters, and cause further sagging.
Whether sagging rain gutters must be repaired or replaced depends on a number of factors, including the reason for the sagging and the extent of the deformation.
- Rain gutter repair may be possible if the gutters are sagging due to bent hangers or brackets or due to hangers or brackets that have worked loose from the house.
- Rain gutter replacement may be necessary if the gutters are sagging due to damage to the roof which will require roof repair
- Rain gutter replacement may be necessary if the gutters are so deformed that they cannot be bent back into shape.
Rain gutter problems, such as leaks, corrosion, or sagging, may be repaired or may require replacement gutters depending on the reason for the problem and extent of damage.