Home Project Tip 11 – Fix Those Leaky Gutters

 

These gutters need flushing out.

 

Most years in Seattle the rainy season runs from about the end of September through the 4th of July. You could say that gutters are just a part of life around here. I’ve got your standard gutters, which do a pretty decent job of directing the runoff from the roof to the corners of the house and down the drainpipes.  Unfortunately, my gutters are more than a few seasons old and the last time it rained I noted they were leaking at the ends. That meant it was high time for a fix.

 

Down In The Gutter

 

Gutters are a necessity in our area as we have a lot of water that would otherwise run off the roof and gather near the foundation.  It’s important to keep gutters clean and functioning to prevent that very thing.  When water gathers and sits too close to a foundation, it can eventually allow the foundation to settle.  Even a small shift in the foundation can cause significant structural or cosmetic damage to a home.

 

Inspect ‘Em

 

If you live is a high treed area, inspect gutters more often.

Here’s my problem: This old caulk came out just by pulling on it.

At a minimum, gutters should be inspected annually, or if you live in an area with lots of leaves and pine needles every few months.  Plugged gutters back up.  When they do that, the water overflows and that can cause rot to the fascia boards or even the ends of the rafters behind them.  Checking for plugged up downspouts is your best defense against this type of damage.

 

When You Need More Than A Fix

 

These days, if you’re in the market to replace your gutters, there are a number of companies advertising new types of gutter systems.  Most of the systems partially enclose the gutter or redesign it in such a way as to let water in and keep debris out—Leafguard and Guttermaxx are two of several companies that offer such a system.  A gutter system like those offered by these companies may prove valuable, especially if you have lots of plant debris falling on your roof.  However, you can also install “aftermarket” gutter devices which attempt to do the same thing.  As I intend to use an aftermarket product on my roof, I’ll save talking about it for our next home project tip.

 

The Fix

 

Since I wasn’t ready to shell out the money for a whole new set of gutters, or even to pay someone come to fix them, I decided to try and fix my leaky gutters on my own.  This is not recommended unless you are comfortable trying home projects yourself and unless you are comfortable on a ladder.  When I went up to inspect my gutters I found them with a half to an inch full of dry leaves.  This wasn’t shocking.  The last time I cleaned them out was about 3 months ago and I live in a heavily treed area.

 

Start by removing all the old caulk.

Some of the old caulk was brittle and popped right out with a screwdriver.

In this case, I didn’t want to hose out my gutters because I’ve been waiting for them to be dry to fix them.  In fact, all I really wanted to do today was just get to the problem areas.  I’ll clean the rest in a day or two.   In the meantime, I had 3 trouble spots around the gutter end caps.  Unless your gutters are seamless, other likely trouble spots typically are found around the gutter “collars” which are basically joint pieces that holds two gutter lengths together.  If the seam isn’t sealed properly, the gutter will leak.

 

The first task in today’s fix was to remove the pine needle and leaf debris from the trouble spot.

 

 

Next, I spent some time pulling out old caulking.  I found a big blob of plain old household silicone caulk in one case, which indicates someone had tried a poor patch job earlier—I moved in to my place last year so this was at least a year ago.  Using a screwdriver, utility knife and some elbow grease I pulled out all the old caulking.

 

I wanted the driest and cleanest surface possible.

After brushing away old pine needles, I used a cleaner to wipe the ends clean.

To make sure I had the best adhesive surface for applying new caulk, I first brushed away excess debris and then used some cleaner and some paper towels to clear away old moss and algae.  I found regular window cleaner worked well for this, but I’m sure any household cleaner would do.

 

It only took a few minutes to clean up the gutter ends.

This gutter is now ready for a new application of caulk.

When the area I wanted to fix was clean, I dried it with paper towels, and then let it air dry a few minutes more.  I wanted as little moisture in the area I was fixing as possible.  Now, technically my new “gutter caulk” says it can be applied under water, but it also says it works best when applied to “clean, dry surfaces”.  From my experience, I think I’ll stick to dry is best.

 

Don't use regular household silicone caulk.  It won't last.

I bought too much for my small job. Next time I’ll buy the smaller tube.

I found my caulk at Home Depot in the roofing department. It’s called SeamerMate.  Your might also find Seamermate at Amazon. I was looking for something specific to the application rather than any standard silicone caulking.  SeamerMate is heat, fire, mildew and moisture resistant and is designed to stay permanently flexible.  Whether you use it or not, look or ask for something specifically designed for sealing up gutters.   FYI:  The caulk I bought came in a large caulk tube, but in retrospect, I would have been fine with the company’s 1 ounce hand tube version as it doesn’t take a lot to fix a few small leaks.

 

Take care not to let the caulk come into contact with skin.

I used gloves to keep the SeamerMate off my fingers as I spread it around.

With the area clean and my caulk in hand, I spread some SeamerMate around the end cap seams on my gutters.  The instructions say apply liberally, but that doesn’t mean to just blob it all over and create a big mass of caulk.  Just make sure to cover the seam completely.  Then if you still end up with a leak you can go back and add a little more.

 

My gutter fix project was relatively painless.  The fix itself only took a minute once I had my gutters clean and dry.  Hopefully, your fix will go as smoothly.

 

For a complete list of our other Home Project Tips click here.

 

2 Responses to Home Project Tip 11 – Fix Those Leaky Gutters

  • R Z says:

    Can any body out there tell me where I can purchase SeamerMate gutter seal. Iive in the Redding Area but distance is no problem. Note Home depot discontinued carrying this product.

  • Mr. Fixit says:

    If you can’t get it locally try Amazon at the link above.

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