Sometimes it makes sense to replace your gutters, and sometimes it doesn’t. Just like in the medical field, you first need to diagnose the problem in order to prescribe the right medicine.
Here’s a list of times you DO need to replace them and times that you DO NOT need to replace them:
Overflow: If your gutters are overflowing, there’s a good chance it’s time to replace your gutters. But before rushing into a costly home improvement project, check to see that it’s not just clogged downspouts that won’t allow a ball of leaves to pass through. If it is, it might be as simple as pulling out a dirty, decaying clump of leaves.
Sagging: This is common in cold weather climates. Here in the Milwaukee Wisconsin we get a lot of ice damming. Gutters which are installed with nails instead of screws will often begin to back out a little each year. Before you know it, your fasteners have let loose and you’re picking your gutters off the ground. If you look directly at your gutters from, say street level, and they have a dip in them so they are smiling at you, chances are you need new gutters.
Rusting: If a gutter is showing rust spots it is a steel gutter. Yes, it may be galvanized steel but eventually that protective zinc coating wears off. If you see rust from ground level there is a good chance you already have some holes in the gutter.
Non-pitched gutter: Most builders use this type of gutters because they are quick to roll out and any monkey can install them. New home buyers don’t look at the specifics, they just look at price of the whole project. Home builders compete and when one wins a customer they have to figure out how to do the install for what the customer wanted it done for. A non-pitched gutter is a haven for mosquitoes because the water builds up until it is so high that it eventually has to go down a downspout or else it will go over the top.
Poorly pitched gutter: I was just in Cudahy last year and a customer of mine had a guy give him one of those “too good to be true” prices. Well it was. The gutter guy didn’t know how to install gutters, he put downspouts in the worst possible places, didn’t strap them in correctly and two weeks later we were removing his new gutters from his house in order to do it correctly. If a gutter doesn’t pitch toward places where the water will drain away, don’t bother getting them done.
Now for the DO NOT replace them guidelines:
You may not need to replace your gutters if the aren’t rusty, are properly pitched (put a level on top — if the bubble is 1/4 across the line, they’re properly pitched), and drain toward a part of your property where the water moves away, you are probably good to go.
Do not bother replacing them if your problem is more of a landscaping issue. Sometimes water can be moved by a creative and informed gutter professional, but sometimes the previous homeowner simply dumped topsoil next to the house so it looked like it had a pitch. Do a little digging. Is the dirt dark like topsoil or is it more brown like clay? Water goes right through topsoil. Water hits clay and follows whatever pitch the clay follows. Sometimes the underlying clay is pitched toward the house but the topsoil was applied on top of that to pitch it away. It may have been a well meaning previous owner of your home that did this, but they did you no favors. In that case, dig the topsoil away, replace it with clay, and then spread the topsoil out evenly on top of clay that is pitched away from your house.