It’s that time of year again. Winter has descended on the Chicago area bringing snow, sleet, and rain. While it seems that the icy blast will never leave us, tomorrow is the Winter Solstice, bringing longer, sunnier days. Before we know it Spring will be upon us, and any melting ice and snow will begin putting roof and gutter systems to the test.
One of the most important issues at this time of year, with storms regularly moving into the area, is to ensure that gutters and downspouts are functioning properly. Gutters are the front line of defense against water damage. They are extremely important for keeping a basement, crawl space, or lower level of a home dry, as failure to divert roof runoff may result in moisture in one of these areas. As soon as it is safe to do so, make sure that dirt and debris are removed from gutters so that melting snow and rainwater can flow freely. Even homes with gutter guards are not maintenance-free; many of these guards don’t work dependably and still need to be removed and cleaned to remove the debris that builds up behind the guard. Gutters that are damaged or sagging are equally problematic, since water will quickly follow the easiest route in its path and spill over an uneven edge. Overall, blocked or sagging gutters are worse than no gutters at all, as large amounts of water will build up and drain over one area onto the ground, rather than draining evenly over the length of a roof edge.
Debris-free gutters often do their job just fine, but if you find that water still drains over roof edges during heavy rains, consider installing commercial grade downspouts. These downspouts are larger in diameter and can handle almost twice as much water as traditional downspouts, therefore allowing heavy rains to quickly drain from the roof. More importantly, consider redesigning where your gutter downspouts are emptying water runoff. Gutters may be operating perfectly, but if the downspout is directing runoff into an area adjacent to your home, the water can easily accumulate against your foundation and find its way into the house. Fortunately this is an easy fix. Downspout extensions can be purchased at any home improvement center, and are easily installed. They should divert water a minimum of five to seven feet away from the foundation. If you find that they are unsightly, or impeding a walkway, you can opt to install an underground extension made of corrugated plastic, with a pop-up emitter attached at its end. This option allows you to direct the water away from your home to a destination of your choosing, whether it be a rain garden, a nearby drain, or the street.
If your gutter system is in good shape, then you are already set to go. If you do need to make improvements, don’t despair. A little bit of maintenance goes a long way in this case, and will allow for peace of mind when the first Spring rainstorm rolls into town.