6 Common Causes of Gutter Leaks (and How to Fix Them)

Here’s a riddle: how are gutters like the CIA? Because unwanted “leaks” can do some serious damage. While plugging intelligence leaks can be complicated, repairing gutter leaks is not nearly as difficult.

Here are six common types of gutter leaks and guidelines on how to fix them.

1. Clogs. Your gutters themselves could be perfect — but if there are too many leaves and twigs inside them, water will still leak over the sides. Debris from trees, wind, and animals can block the flow of runoff water to the downspouts.

Cleaning out your gutters is a simple (although time-consuming) fix. But if you truly loathe gutter cleaning, hire a professional, or invest in a gutter protection system.

2. Loose fasteners. Whether your gutter is fastened to your roof with hangers, screws, or nails, these can sometimes work themselves loose. As a result, the runoff water can flow over the rear edge of your gutters, and damage your fascia boards in the process.

Therefore, you must get up on a ladder and re-fasten the gutters to the roofline, preferably with a stronger fastener (or two). But if your fascia boards are already rotted, you’ll need to replace those, because the gutters won’t stay attached to deteriorating wood.

3. Holes. These often form after several years of use. Tiny amounts of water can pool in a certain part of a gutter section and cause corrosion over time. Sometimes, it’s enough to create a hole in the gutters themselves.

In most cases, holes can be filled with a caulk or waterproof sealant (though be sure to clean the area around the hole before sealing it). If the hole is large, you should probably just replace the entire gutter section.

4. Cracks. The same process which leads to holes causes cracks, but these tend to occur at places in which fasteners pass through the metal or where gutter sections are joined together. These locations are especially vulnerable to water or debris accumulation, and they can sometimes separate from each other completely.

Small cracks can be fixed with sealant or caulk, but larger separations may require more work. In these latter cases, it’s a good idea to reattach the gutter parts at the separated seam and re-fasten them to prevent future separations.

5. Improper slope. Over time, the changes in temperatures and the weight of water and debris could cause gutters to sag at certain spots. When this happens, the natural slope which channels the runoff water toward the downspouts disappears — and the water simply overflows the sides of the guttering.

Unfortunately, this issue usually requires re-hanging some or all of the gutter sections to achieve the proper slope (between 1/4 and 1/2 of an inch per 10 feet of guttering). You may need to snap a chalk line on the fascia boards in order to outline the appropriate slope before the gutters are hung up again.

6. Joint separations. One of the weakest points of a gutter system is the joints where water must bend around a corner before continuing toward a downspout. These joints are prone to collecting water and debris, which can lead to any of the above mentioned leaks.

Sometimes, the easiest fix will be to simply replace the problematic joint. But depending on the precise type of leak, sealant or caulk might be enough to repair it. Still, it’s important to make sure that the gutters aren’t sagging at the joint; otherwise, the leak may return in the future.

Photo credits: o5com, AJ Batac