Gutters, Home Inspection

How Home Inspectors Should Check Your Gutters

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Hubert Miles

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When you have a home inspection, your home inspector should inspect your gutter system. The inspection will examine the gutters, downspouts, and flow of stormwater runoff away from the house. You may be wondering how your inspector will inspect the gutter system.

Here are the guidelines I follow as a Master Inspector when checking gutters:

A home inspector performs a visual inspection of the gutter system from the ground, a ladder at the eaves, or from the roof. Home inspectors are looking for the following items:

  • debris clogging the gutters preventing proper drainage
  • evidence of overflow from the gutter system
  • is the gutter piping secure and sloped to ensure water can flow freely
  • leaks from the gutters caused by damage, cracks, splits, or rust
  • an adequate number of downspouts
  • do downspouts discharge onto the roof surface
  • the stromwater discharge from the downspouts around the foundation  

Read on as we take an in-depth look at what to expect when home inspectors come to inspect your gutters.

How Should Home Inspectors Inspect Gutters?

1. They Should Check The Size Of The Gutters

The home inspectors check the size of the guttering system to ensure that it can handle the amount of runoff in the rainy season. 

Even a few inches of rain on the roof can result in gallons of runoff when it rains. You can calculate the amount of runoff by multiplying the average inches of rain by the square footage of your roof.

For example, 2 inches of rain on a 2,000 square foot roof will result in 2,400 gallons of runoff. 

If the gutters cannot channel the runoff away from the house because they are the wrong size, most of this runoff will end up saturating the soil next to the foundation. 

The water saturating the soil will seep into the foundation and cause cracks and structural damage.

2. They Should Inspect The Gutters For Rust, Splits, And Cracks

These are problems that can cause leakage. Leaks cause damage to the walls and foundations as well. The water from the leaks also flows into the basement, causing flooding. 

Rusted gutters can also pose a hazard when you are cleaning them. A cut from a rusty gutter can lead to conditions like tetanus. 

3. They Should Check The Downspouts 

Downspouts are essential for channeling the water from the gutter and away from the house. 

Depending on the soil around the house, you should give the downspout an extension of 3 to even 10 feet.

Downspouts in clay-rich, sloppy areas can have an extension of only three feet away from the building. The soil doesn’t absorb water quickly, but the slope helps move the flooding water away from the house.

In this case, the water doesn’t seep into the foundation because it is clay soil. And the slope naturally carries the water away.

On the other hand, downspouts in loamy soil areas have to extend five to ten feet. If the extension is close to the foundation, water will seep into the soil and damage the foundation.

A ten-foot extension will carry the water far away from the foundation. That means that even if it seeps into the ground, it is too far to interfere with the foundation.

And the land doesn’t have to slope if you have loamy soil. The inspectors will look at the ground and slope in relation to the downspout. 

However, the inspection does not require the inspectors to measure the amount and angle of the gutter slope. But, they will ensure that the gutters slope into the downspout.

Should Gutters Discharge Onto The Roof?

Gutters should not discharge onto the roof. If they do, the water will cause the roof and shingles to deteriorate, resulting in leaks. 

As the water leaks into the house, it causes mildew and mold to grow in the areas it comes into contact with.

Even if the roof is new or still in good shape, the roof will deteriorate sooner if the gutters do not work well.

To ensure that the gutters do not discharge onto the roof, place one downspout to serve 40 linear feet of gutter. That guarantees that there are enough downspouts to clear the roof.

Will A House Pass Inspection Without Gutters?

There are a lot of houses that passed my inspection without gutters. The building code doesn’t make it mandatory to have gutters, even on a sloping roof in many areas. A house can pass a home inspection without gutters if it is in good condition. Home inspectors will often recommend gutters if there is a drainage issue around the house.

However, the lack of gutters may mean the soil around the foundation is saturated with water resulting in structural damage and other concerns like mold and mildew.

This damage may cause your house to fail the inspection. The inspector may recommend a guttering system and downspouts to mitigate the water damage and protect the problem areas.

Should All Houses Have Gutters?

Every house doesn’t need gutters, but I would prefer a home with a gutter any day. Gutters are not a cosmetic addition to your roofing system. They are an essential part of protection for your roof as well as the walls and foundation. Houses with gutters have proven to retain their good condition instead of those without gutters installed.

Having a gutter system that takes the water away from the building is crucial for sloping roofs. The gutters help to protect your siding and foundation, prevent erosion and prevent flooding. 

If you have a hip roof (a roof that slopes on all sides), a perimeter guttering system is necessary. However, if it only slopes in some sections, you need gutters only for those specific sections.

But not all houses need gutters. If your home has concrete around the foundation and good landscape drainage, you do not need gutters. That is because the water runs off the concrete and landscape. 

If you are firmly against gutters, consider the following alternatives:

  • Rain Chain

The rain chain is a series of bowls or basins made of metal or ceramic attached to the roof’s eaves. You can slope them away from the house to deposit the water into a container like a barrel.

The rain chain slows down the momentum of the water. As a result, the water doesn’t splash on the ground and erodes the area near the foundation.

  • A Rain Dispersal System

A rain dispersal system features a plate that attaches to the roof and disperses water. The louvers in the plate break up the water, making it easier to disperse.

The plate juts out, causing the water to fall onto the garden or shrub near your house in a soft cascade. 

Plus, you can easily blow off leaves or debris on the plate. 

A drip edge flashing is a metal flashing installed on the roof’s edge to help direct water flow away from the fascia and other components of the roof.

The metal flange hangs on the side of the roof, and it is bent to face away from the fascia board. By directing water away from the fascia, it prevents rot. And it also seals gaps at the roof’s bottom and protects the decking preventing water from entering the roof during driving rains.


If you do not want to deal with gutter inspection, the above options offer the same advantages as a guttering system.

Next time you have a home inspection, keep in mind the mentioned areas of focus for the inspectors. It is best to regularly schedule assessments of your guttering system by a plumbing professional. That will help you catch any issue that an inspector may flag before they come to your site.

The three areas that the inspectors focus on are according to the standards of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting professional home inspections since 2002. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Professional Inspector (CPI), Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
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