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How To Fix Gutters That Overflow (And Why They’re Overflowing)

For many homeowners, overflowing gutters can be frustrating. A gutter that overflows generates a lot of noise that can be extremely irritating, especially when you’re trying to sleep or just looking for a little peace and quiet. More importantly, water overflow can actually damage your home and turn into a very costly repair nightmare.

There are a multitude of reasons that your gutters overflow when it rains, and determining the cause will help you address the issue. What follows are three gutter repair tips based on common problems.

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fixing overflowing rain gutter

1. Gutter Clogs Due To Debris

The most common source of overflow is clogged gutters. This scenario builds up when leaves and loose gravel from roof tiles settle in the gutter valley. Bird nests can also block the gutter channel.

Fortunately, clogged gutters are the easiest repair that can be made on your gutter runs.

What will you need?

A ladder or step stool that allows you to reach the clogs is critical. You might be able to avoid using a ladder if you have roof access through an upper-level window. If you do need a ladder, make sure that you use it safely.

If you decide to remove the clogs manually, you can use your hands or tools to pry the debris free from the gutter. If you use your hands, you might consider using a pair of work gloves to provide protection to your fingers. Manual tools can include hand-held spades, long screwdrivers, putty knives, or products specifically designed for the job.

Water can also be used to wash away clogs. You will need a hose, as well as a wand or nozzle that creates water pressure to help peel away clumps of leaves or other debris that is stuck to the gutters. There are water devices available that provide an extended reach and angle that will allow you to use pressurized water from the ground

Cleaning the gutters

You can use your hands, tools, or water pressure to lift the debris out of the gutter channel. If a nest is causing the blockage, you should make sure that the nest is not inhabited. If it is, you might want to move it if possible.

Downspouts can be more difficult to unclog as you cannot reach into the down run by hand or tool. When cleaning out downspouts, you will need pressurized water or a tool that can reach into the length of the run to the point of the clog. Many homeowners will use both to clean out these vertical runs.

It would be advisable to sweep off or wash the roof before you clean out the gutters. If there is a lot of leaves or loose gravel on the roof, it is likely that your gutters will clog again when it rains. Taking the extra time to clear off the roof will prevent you from having to clean your gutters all of the time.

2. Gutter Design Problems Causing Clogs

If clogs are not causing an overflow in your gutter system, the next thing to consider is the gutter design itself. A variety of issues will limit the amount of water your current design can handle and it may need alterations in order to work properly. Two major points to consider here are improper gutter positions and over-splash.

The pitch, or angle, that your gutter system provides for water to flow can be an issue. If a horizontal gutter run lacks enough pitch to direct the rain towards a downspout, water will gather faster than it can move along the system. This will create a build-up that fills the channel and causes water to flow over the gutter edge.

Your gutters may also have a pitch that is too steep towards the downspouts. If this is the case, water moves towards the openings too quickly and will fill the gutter at the downspout which causes the water to flow over the gutter lip.

Also, the gutters may be sitting at an awkward angle on the roof edge as well. You can tell that this is a problem if you notice that the outer lip sits below the lip that connects to the home. During heavy rains, the gutters will fill, and the lower outer lip will provide a path for water to escape.

Another design problem comes with homes that have a steep roof pitch. A higher pitch will move water towards the gutters faster then the system can move it towards downspouts. The water may splash over the gutters before they have a chance to collect and move the water.

What will you need?

This will depend upon what the problem actually is. You may have to simply purchase splash guards. More complex jobs may require extra fasteners or spacers to adjust the pitch.

Fixing design problems

If the pitch of your roof is causing overflows, you can install splash guards to prevent the water from moving over the gutters. These are usually L-shaped and prevent rainfall from jumping over the gutters.

If you have a gutter system that has a lower lip along the outside edge of your gutters, you can install spacers that move the outside lip up. You may also be able to bend the gutter so that the gutter edges sit at the same height. The system may also require supports attached to the wall that supports the outer edge of the gutter in order to maintain the proper pitch.

If the gutter run pitch is too high or low, you will need to adjust the run. That will require you to detach the run and raise or lower it so that a proper pitch can be achieved.

3. Problems With Downspouts Or Gutter Size

If your gutter system is not clogged and it provides the proper pitch, the gutter size or number of downspouts could be the problem. There are many factors that influence the amount of water your gutter system receives at any moment, causing water to build in the trench and overflow the lip.

If you have a roof with a steep pitch, or you live in an area that receives a lot of rain, your gutters might be too small to handle the water generated. It is also possible that your downspouts are too small to handle the water as it gathers near the top opening. Finally, you may have a gutter system that lacks enough downspouts, to begin with.

What will you need?

Again, this will depend upon what the problem actually is. No matter what, you will need extra gutter material or possibly a complete replacement in order to eliminate the issue.

Fixing these problems

These problems will be the most difficult to fix and may require that you hire a professional. The easiest fix will be small downspouts. Most systems use down runs that are two or three inches in diameter and replacing downspouts with new runs with greater widths should solve the problem.

If your home is generating more water than your gutters can handle, you might have to replace the horizontal runs with larger gutters. A more simple fix could be to add extra downspouts on trouble areas, offering more opening for the water to run down.  

Top 5 Reasons Gutters Clog and Overflow

1. Leaves and debris

One of the most common reasons for gutters to clog and overflow is the accumulation of leaves, twigs, and other organic debris. This debris can create blockages in the gutters, preventing water from flowing freely and leading to overflowing gutters. Regular cleaning and maintenance can help prevent this issue.

2. Roofing material granules

Over time, roofing materials like asphalt shingles can shed granules, which can accumulate in gutters and create clogs. These granules can mix with other debris, forming a thick sludge that obstructs water flow, causing gutters to overflow. Inspecting your roof for signs of wear and replacing damaged shingles can help minimize granule buildup.

3. Improper gutter installation

Gutters that are improperly installed or not adequately sloped can contribute to clogging and overflowing issues. Without the right slope, water may not flow correctly towards the downspouts, leading to standing water and potential clogs. Ensuring proper gutter installation can help prevent these issues.

4. Damaged or sagging gutters

Gutters that are damaged, warped, or sagging can lead to clogs and overflow. When gutters are not properly aligned or have gaps, water can pool in certain areas, causing debris to accumulate and form clogs. Regularly inspecting gutters for damage and making necessary repairs can help maintain proper function.

5. Insufficient downspout size or quantity

Downspouts play a crucial role in directing water away from your home’s foundation. If your downspouts are too small or there aren’t enough of them to handle the volume of water your gutters collect, the water may back up and overflow. Ensuring you have the appropriate number and size of downspouts for your home can help prevent clogging and overflowing issues.

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