If you own a home in the Pacific Northwest, then you know that water is no joke. From the constant drizzle to the torrential downpours, water can cause all sorts of problems for your home.
So listen up, because we’re about to talk about something super important: your gutters and downspouts.
Yeah, I know, it’s not the sexiest topic out there, but trust me, it’s crucial if you want to keep your home in tip-top shape. I would argue that it’s the MOST important part of home ownership in this region. Don’t believe me? Keep on reading to see how putting off my gutter maintenance ended in DISASTER plus some tips and tricks to properly care for your gutters and downspouts so you can avoid my fate!
If you’re new here, I’m Lauren Goché — a Portland realtor with a decade of experience backing me up. This means I’ve weathered more than a few market shifts over the course of my career, and specialize in making sure you can make the most of the market for your goals. Read more about me here.
I Learned This Lesson So You Don’t Have To
Alright, let’s get into it.
Picture this: when I first moved into my house there was a fair amount of deferred maintenance and I knew fixing the gutters was at the top of that list. So my first winter in this house, I called up my gutter guy to come and replace them, but on the day of, he hit me up with some bad news: “I have a family emergency, I can’t come today.”
Obviously, family comes first, so I go about my day, not really thinking much of it. But wouldn’t you know it, that was the same day we got hit with one of those godforsaken Pacific Northwest storms. You know the kind, where it just DUMPS crazy amounts of water for hours on end.
Soooo, I’m sleeping soundly in my bed when I suddenly hear a knock on my door — it’s my buddy who’s staying in the unfinished basement (a little sketch, I know, but I was doing a favor for a friend). He tells me there’s water down there. Like, a lot of water. I drag my ass out of bed, half asleep, and head downstairs to see what’s up.
Now, this house is a mid-century gem with a rock-solid foundation, so I’m thinking, “There’s no way there’s water down here.” But sure enough, there’s easily 50 gallons of water just sitting there, taunting me. And I notice this tiny hairline crack in the foundation that’s letting all the water in. Normally, a crack like this is totally fine and wouldn’t cause any problems. Butttttt…
The gutters were completely shot and overflowing in front of the house AND — here’s the key — all the soil around the house was sloping towards the house. That meant the water coming off my roof made it directly to my house and was just stuck there with nowhere to go except through that tinyyyy crack. FML
How did I fix it? I spent *forever* cleaning up the water with a shop vac and an industrial mop. The next week, my gutter guy shows up and installs new gutters, and my landscaper comes and adds some soil and slopes it away from the house. And you know what? My basement has been bone dry ever since. Not. a. drop. of. water. No matter what storm the PNW throws at us.
So, let me tell you, folks, that’s why you need to take care of your gutters and downspouts and make sure the soil around your house is sloping away from it. Otherwise, you might end up like me, mopping up water at 2 am, cursing your luck.
Why Proper Gutter and Downspout Care is Crucial
First off, why are gutters and downspouts so important in the Pacific Northwest? Well, as I mentioned earlier, although water is life it is also the enemy, when it comes to home ownership. If your gutters and downspouts aren’t doing their job, then water can seep into your home and cause all sorts of problems, including:
Water damage to your home’s foundation: Excess water around your foundation can cause cracks and other types of structural damage that can be costly to repair.
Basement flooding: If your gutters and downspouts aren’t properly directing water away from your home, water can seep into your basement, leading to flooding and water damage (like in my case)
Mold and mildew: Moisture buildup around your home can lead to the growth of mold and mildew, which can cause health problems for you, your family, and pets.
Damage to your home’s exterior: Water that isn’t properly directed away from your home can cause damage to your siding, roof, and other exterior features.
Damage to Landscaping: If water isn’t properly diverted away from your home, it can wreak havoc on your landscaping.
Now, you might be thinking, “But Lauren, I don’t have any trees near my house, so I don’t need to worry about clearing leaves from my gutters and downspouts, right?” Wrong! Even if you don’t have trees dropping leaves and branches onto your roof, you still need to make sure that water is properly diverted away from your home. That means making sure that your gutters and downspouts are clean and in good working order.
What Can You Do to Take Care of Your Gutters and Downspouts?
- Clean your gutters at least twice a year.
I know, I know, no one likes cleaning gutters. But trust me, it’s better than the alternative. It’s best to clean ’em out once in the fall and once in spring. If you let debris build up in your gutters, then water can’t flow through them properly. That means water will spill over the sides of your gutters and potentially cause damage to your home. So, break out the ladder (or hire someone to do it for you!) and clean those gutters! And don’t forget to check your downspouts for clogs, too. Personally, I am on an automated twice a year schedule with Wilderland Roof & Window Cleaning. It’s a real set it and forget it situation.
- Make sure your gutters are properly sloped.
Your gutters need to be sloped downward toward your downspouts so that water flows through them properly. If your gutters aren’t sloped correctly, then water will just sit in them and potentially cause damage. Check to make sure that your gutters have a slope of at least 1/4 inch per 10 feet of gutter.
- Install gutter guards.
If you really hate the idea of cleaning your gutters, then consider installing gutter guards. These are screens or covers that go over your gutters and keep debris out. Just keep in mind that you’ll still need to clean your gutters periodically (around once a year) to make sure that the guards are doing their job.
- Check for leaks.
If you notice water dripping from your gutters or downspouts, then you may have a leak. Leaks can cause water to seep into your home and cause damage, so it’s important to address them as soon as possible.
- Direct your downspouts away from your home.
Your downspouts should direct water away from your home’s foundation. That means making sure that they’re pointed away from your house and terminate at least 10 feet away from your foundation to make sure that there’s no standing water near your foundation. If you need to, you can install extensions onto your downspouts to direct water even further away from your home.
- Make sure the soil around your foundation is sloping away from your house.
That way if there is any water from rain or downspouts, water will run downhill away from your house. It is usually a matter of simply adding soil around the house and compaction it down in a slight slope.
Your gutters and downspouts are the unsung heroes of your home! Taking care of them may not be the most glamorous part of home ownership — but it’s certainly one of the most important. Neglecting this part of home maintenance may lead you getting woken up at 2 am to a flooded basement. Take it from me, it’s not fun.
Remember: when it comes to water in the Pacific Northwest, it’s not a matter of if it will cause problems for your home, but when, if you don’t stay ahead of it. So, take care of your gutters and downspouts and protect your investment. And who knows, maybe you’ll even find a little satisfaction in having the cleanest gutters on the block 😉
- Gutter and downspout maintenance, especially in the PNW, is the MOST important part of home ownership.
- Lack of gutter maintenance can lead to water stains on your ceilings, mold growth in your walls, or even structural damage if the water gets into your foundation.
- Even if you don’t have trees around your home, you still need to make sure that water is properly diverted away from your home.
- Clean your gutters twice a year: in spring and fall.
- Make sure they’re properly sloped by 1/4 inch per 10 feet of gutter.
- Installing gutter guards will make cleaning easier.
- Check for leaks and address them ASAP!
- Direct your downspout away from your home. This might seem obvious but it’s easy to forget.
- When in doubt: hire a professional!
Let’s make sure your Pacific Northwest home is ready for whatever Mother Nature throws its way! Whether you’re looking to buy or sell, we’re here to help you make the most of your investment — contact me here!