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What You Need to Know About Gutter Care in Drought Conditions

By August 3, 2012No Comments

Homeowners know that a properly-working gutter system channels runoff water from the roof into the downspouts and away from the home’s foundation. This is especially important during the rainy season, when heavy rainfall can cause pooling or overflowing if gutters are clogged or not functioning correctly. But what about during a drought? When it comes to gutters, is it okay for a homeowner to just say, “Fuhgeddaboudit?”

Not unless he or she is leaving Brooklyn.

What exactly is a drought?

As of right now, about half of the United States is under what’s classified as drought conditions. Droughts are measured primarily by precipitation; not by temperatures, humidity, or other weather factors. So if a given region has not received enough rain, snow or other precipitation over a number or months or years, then the supplies of surface and underground water are depleted, which leads to a drought.

Gutters are probably not a homeowner’s highest priority during times of drought, especially when compared to tasks like landscape irrigation, water conservation, and damage prevention for trees and gardens. However, the occurrence of drought conditions is not a sufficient reason to completely ignore gutter systems. In fact, it’s a good time to remind homeowners not to forget to inspect their gutters monthly for holes, cracks, and leaks; plus, these problems may be easier to see without the presence of standing water or debris. (Furthermore, homeowners who didn’t get a chance to clean their gutters during the spring should definitely seize the opportunity to do so during the summer months.)

Gutters may not be empty

Just because rainfall has been scarce doesn’t mean that a home’s gutters are completely empty during a drought. Periodic rainfall serves to wash away small pieces of debris that tend to accumulate in gutters. Without that precipitation, these particulates may take hold inside gutters and become islands which can attract dirt, pollen, animal waste, and other nasty substances that are found on roofs. So it’s wise for homeowners to either rinse these areas clean with a hose or wipe and scrape the debris out of the gutters.

Worry about wind, not rain

Also, drought periods have no direct effect on the amount of wind that can blow through a region. On the contrary, windy conditions may be more relevant to gutter maintenance during a drought because of the dust, leaves, pine needles, and other debris that can be blown from trees and roofs into gutters. These clogged areas can become problematic even when it doesn’t rain, because bugs, rodents, and birds can nest in these shady areas. Some of them can even find cracks and holes in your roofline and enter your attic or home interior. Therefore, homeowners may need to vacuum or scoop out windblown debris to eliminate areas where unwanted critters may congregate.

Including chickens, apparently.

Drought and ground runoff

Finally, gutters need to be in good working order when rains finally do come to drought-stricken regions. Water that flows out of your gutters will encounter a hard, dry ground which will likely facilitate the aboveground travel of runoff water. Usually, this is a good thing, because it means the water is transported away from a home’s foundation. But homeowners should make sure that this flowing water does not invade other areas like patios, landscaping around fences, or foundations of garages. This may require a downspout adjustment or two.

Like snow shovels, umbrellas, and tire chains, gutters probably don’t trigger a large amount of concern by homeowners during a drought. But maintaining preventive measures and taking a few precautions will help prepare every homeowner for the time when precipitation returns to their area and starts flowing through their gutters again.

Photo credits: marstheinfomage, rikkis_refuge