5 Things That Can Happen If You Don't Clean Your Gutters

If you've been avoiding cleaning out your gutters, you're not alone. It's a household chore that's often neglected. It's inconvenient and easy to put on the burner. And while it can be hard to justify the expense of paying a company to come out and clean your gutters, there are some homes where it's downright dangerous to try and do it on your own. 

Whatever your reasons, it's time to put them aside. Not cleaning your gutters can lead to some severe problems. Here are a few of the most common we've come across.

When gutters are not cleaned and maintained, they become clogged with debris and overflow. When gutters overflow, water can damage the roof, eaves, foundation, and landscaping. In addition, long-term neglect can cause erosion around concrete slabs and flooding in crawl spaces and basements.

Gutters that are not cleaned can cause:

  1. Damage to the roof, including wood rot in the roof decking and the ends of the rafters or trusses.
  2. Damage to the eaves, including wood rot to the fascia and soffit.
  3. Algae, mildew, and mold growth on the roof, eaves, and inside the attic.
  4. Foundation problems caused by erosion around concrete slabs and flooding in basements and crawl spaces.
  5. Problems with pests like termites, carpenter ants, borer bees, beetles, etc.

Clogged Gutters Can Damage Your Roof

Unfortunately, one of the most common problems with not cleaning your gutters is that it can lead to roof damage. We're not just talking about minor problems here or there, either. Neglected gutters often stop working. This can lead to standing water on the roof, which may leave your roof damaged.

As you know, once the roof is compromised, the damage will continue to compound as the water makes its way into the home. So without even realizing it, your roof, ceilings, walls, floors — and everything inside your home — could be at risk.

It isn't just the roof you need to worry about, either. Dirty gutters are often full gutters. They can become heavy and pull away from the house. This may cause damage to your exterior. In the event your gutters fall, you'll likely lose the gutter itself and anything it hits or destroys while on its way down. Any money or time you thought you were saving by putting off the chore will then have to go to gutter and house repairs. 

Clogged Gutters Cause Algae, Moss, and Mold Growth

If you don't catch that roof damage right away, you may be faced with unsightly algae and moss growing on your home. Not only is it unattractive, as it grows on the exterior, but it also traps moisture against the exterior of your home, which will eventually threaten its integrity. In addition, as mold and algae push up under roof shingles while they grow, the roof will become further compromised. This means there's more water coming into the house from more locations.

Not only does this make exterior repairs more extensive, but it also means more areas inside the home will need to be addressed. Unfortunately, it may be more than just opening up drywall and replacing weakened framing. As the moisture settles into the building materials trapped in the walls, mold can quickly set up shop. By the time you realize you have a problem, your whole home may need serious mold remediation.

Gutter Neglect Can Cause Foundation Problems

Gutters are designed to carry water a safe distance from the home. However, when they aren't cleaned and aren't functioning correctly, a large amount of water is usually dumped directly next to the foundation. Basement walls can then absorb water and the foundation, making it more likely you'll run into cracks in the foundation, flooding in the basement, and mold growth.

Unfortunately, the risks to your foundation don't end there. During extremely wet weather, improperly routed water may saturate the ground and make its way under the foundation. When this happens, you can compromise the integrity of the foundation itself. In the worst cases, this can leave your home uninhabitable, and the cost of repairs can be prohibitive. 

As water spills around the foundation, erosion can occur along with concrete slabs or flood crawl spaces and basements. Flooded crawl spaces caused cracking in brick masonry, wood rot in floor structures, mold growth, and potential termite activity. Basements can become flooded, causing standing water, mold problems, and structural movement costing thousands in foundation damage.

Poor Gutters Maintainance Can Damage Landscaping

In addition to worrying about what water can do to your home, you also need to be concerned about what it might do to your landscaping. If water cannot be absorbed quickly enough by the ground, your plants may stand in water for an extended period. This can lead to root rot and fungus, as well as the loss of your plants. 

If you are positioned on a slope and don't have gutters to help water effectively find its way to a drain system, it will create its path. It can result in significant damage to your lawn and even erosion on your property.

Gutter Neglect Create Pest Problems

Pests of all kinds need access to water. Unfortunately, some pests like mosquitoes and other biting bugs use standing water as their breeding grounds. If your gutters aren't appropriately routing your water, you can be looking at a buggy, unenjoyable yard. Not only do you need to worry about the discomfort of the bug bites, but you also need to be mindful that many of these biting bugs can also be disease-carrying.

Wood destroying organisms like termites, carpenter ants, bees, and beetles love wet wood and damp spaces. Wet wood caused by poorly maintained gutters can allow termite colonies to form that can destroy a house without you ever seeing a single insect.

While bugs are unfortunate results of having standing water on your property, they aren't the only potential pest. Rodents like rats and mice are drawn to moist areas. If they can source both food and water on your property, you can quickly be looking at an infestation in your home and the damage that comes with them.

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Frequent carriers of both ticks and fleas, you also need to be mindful of the diseases they might bring into your home and yard. This is especially true if you have small children or pets of your own with whom you share your space.

Keep Those Gutters Clean

Keeping your gutters clean is genuinely not an optional chore. It's about much more than just the look of your home and the inconvenience of puddles during lousy weather. Neglecting your gutters can lead to a host of problems that can lead to significant and expensive repairs. 

Not every homeowner should be maintaining their gutters. If you're one of those homeowners, consider investing in a company that will add you to their schedule for regular visits and cleanings. If your home has gutters that are easily accessible and you're up to the task, mark your calendars and make sure your gutters are regularly cleaned. 

A good rule of thumb for your gutters is to clean your gutters at least twice a year. If you notice an issue with how your gutters are working, though, don't sit on it. It may indicate a more severe problem that will only get worse if it's left unaddressed.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

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