Eavestrough Repair Common Questions

It is likely that most people do not consider their eavestrough system until they experience some type of issue such as overflowing of the guttering or dripping from the corners of their gutter system.

The subject of eavestrough repair is a common request for many roofing and aluminum contractors. Our company literally receives hundreds of such eavestrough repair inquiries annually. As a result, the following information may serve to help answer some of the most commonly asked questions pertaining to the subject.

The basic primer on the subject begins with understanding some common terminology. The word “gutters” is commonly used in the Eastern United States and Eastern portions of Canada. More common in Canada, and across the country; is referring to the water carrying system as “eavestroughs”. The term makes sense when one thinks of a trough designed to catch rainwater from the bottom edge, also known as the “eaves” area of the roof.

The term “gutter” sounds more tough and nasty and may conjure images of a downtrodden, sewer-like assembly, where the unfortunate may end up. The fact is; your professional contractor will understand either choice of term.

Any rainwater leading system is comprised of a few standard elements. They are the trough portion that catches the water volume from the roof, the downpipes; which lead the water from the trough toward the ground, or the in-ground drains of the property as the case may be.

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Outlets, are devices that are strategically placed in openings of the trough, which allow attachment of the downpipes to the trough itself. It essentially acts as a bridge between the two pieces.

End caps, refer to pre-fabricated closure pieces which are located on opposing ends of an eavestrough, which does not carry around a corner of a building.

Eavestroughs which surround a building will instead employ corner joints. Corner joints are cut in a mitered fashion out of the eavestrough material itself; to form either inside or outside corners as the job may require. Mitered corners may also be fabricated using complex angles, to accommodate multi-faceted roof plains, such as found on turrets or bay windows as an example.

Skilled, professional eavestroughers will prefer to hand miter their corners, as opposed to using prefabricated pieces from the manufacturer of the guttering. The reason is that few buildings are seldom perfectly square; and as a result, a pro can ensure a tighter corner which prevents leaks from occurring behind the gutter. Further; a pre-fabricated corner joint ends up with three seams instead of one; which triples the chance of future corner leaks.

Professionals develop patterns to cut inside or outside miters, which relate to varying profiles of the eavestrough materials. Common profiles for guttering include “K” style, “Ogee”, half round, and box gutters. Some profiles of gutters are hand-made such as box gutters, and some are extruded  from flat stock metal; through a gutter roll forming machine to produce the desired profiles, such as “k” style , and ogee. Some are roll formed or extruded, like half round gutter.

Eavestrough systems are available in various sizes (referencing their capacity), and are available in different types of metals and in different gauges(thicknesses) of metals. Common sizes include five-inch gutter and six-inch gutter. Lager custom sizes are also available.

“Elbows”, refer to short downpipe sections which are manufactured to contour to particular angles, which permit the transition of a downpipe to extend from the gutter above; back toward the wall surface of the building, and often where the downpipe transitions from the wall of the building away from the foundation at ground level.

Leader pipes refer to sections of a downpipe which are cut to a specific length to lead rainwater away from the foundation of a building. Commonly, downpipes which run away from a foundation should be directed a minimum of five feet away from the foundation, and with respect to the drainage pattern of adjacent ground levels. Alternatively, some downpipes are directed into in-ground drains, which connect with storm sewer assemblies or are directed to exit underground away from a property.

Major cities such as Toronto, prefer where possible, that stormwater is directed out of the city’s storm sewer system to help mitigate flooding and other perils. One can learn more about the subject and applicable bylaws by visiting the City of Toronto website.

Increasingly popular in cities, and remaining common in rural areas; is the collection of stormwater by collecting rain in barrels connected directly to the downpipes, or in cisterns (water collection tanks). Many gardeners believe that rainwater is the best for plants, and is reminiscent of what our forefathers did commonly over centuries past, to ensure stable water supply.

Common materials used for eavestrough systems include copper, leaded copper, zinc, and galvanized steel. These types of alloys require the process of soldering, in order to join either length of guttering together and to make joint connections at corners.

These premium types of eavestrough systems are designed to last for decades, compliment particular architectural styles, and arguably provide the best value over time.

Common issues with such eavestrough systems include the breakdown of or improperly done soldered seams.  The ability to successfully repair such items depends on the age of the material, and if oxidation can be sufficiently removed to permit the re-soldering or braising (using brass rod), to ensure a water-tight connection of the seams. The craftsmanship required to do such a superior job comes at a premium in concert with the fact that commodity metals are used.

Most common for housing stock, is the use of aluminum eavestrough systems. Aluminum is relatively inexpensive when compared to premium metals, The softer metal is easier to extrude and work with.

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The common failures of such guttering include leaking corner joints, fasteners such as brackets or spikes and ferrules which have become dislodged from the fascia board behind, and resulted in the excessive spillage of water over the front or rear of the guttering, Under some circumstances, frozen water resulting in the icing of the gutters may cause the gutters to collapse under the weight of snow and ice.

To repair leaking corner joints properly on aluminum gutters requires that the old sealant must be ground out of the gutter, the metal surface then needs to be cleaned properly, so that new gutter silicone sealant can be applied and will actually stick properly to seal the joints. Further miter repair can include removal of rivets which can split or pop, in favour of using aluminum screws to tighten up the corner joints. The use of screws is a preferred installation method.

Where guttering has pulled away; the repair regimen typically involves having to remove the gutter section, inspect and repair if any deficient lumber fascia is present, (and even rafter tails from the roof which have become rotten over time). Once a solid backing is reinstated (the fascia); the gutter section or new gutter section as the case may be; can then be competently installed.

When installing gutters it is important to incorporate the correct amount of slope to ensure that they drain water efficiently and avoid standing water. Standing water can and will freeze in winter months. Lighter gauge gutters and those that have minimal securing are vulnerable to collapse and be dangerous to pedestrians beneath.

Commonly, downpipes will become clogged. As a routine of inspection; one should tap on the downpipes to hear if they sound hollow. A hollow sound is ideal. Tapping at elbow joints (a typical area of blockage), is an additional inspection step. It is also important to do the same where downpipes may enter into in-ground drains.

Cleaning of the eavestroughs, associated outlet openings and downpipes should be conducted twice annually, particularly if one has trees in close proximity to the home or building. Spring and fall are the ideal times. 

It is often best to use a properly insured contractor who has the ladder safety to complete the job. High, steeply pitched roofs or uneven terrain homes are best left to the pros. Hiring someone who is not properly trained or insured can represent a liability issue for the home or building owner.

Many homeowners turn to leaf guard products, as a way to mitigate cleaning the gutters. But using such products does not absolutely ensure that debris, needles or leaf keys, will not enter through the screening material. In fact, under some circumstances, adding leaf guards will result in water shooting past the eaves of the roof (steeper pitches), which can be counter-intuitive.

Having said this, installing leaf guard systems can serve to limit the number of cleanings, and particularly where the guttering is located high up; it can be a blessing to some people.

There are various leaf guard products manufactured by different sources, which can provide varying results. There are eavestroughs which are specially designed to have an integral hood incorporated into the extruded profile of the gutter itself. There are gutter hoods that are designed to retro-fit onto one’s existing gutter system. In other words, there can be many choices in terms of product and people should test to determine which may be best for their particular circumstances.

Another common complaint involving gutter relates to water spilling or dripping behind the gutter. This can result from water curling under the roof shingles and dripping down the fascia board, or when gutters reach capacity under extreme rainfall. The addition of a metal drip edge flashing can often serve to eliminate or minimize the problem.

Consider that on a home that has a long run of fascia; the gutter may typically be higher at one end in comparison to the opposing end; which results in water contacting directly into the gutter at one end, but less so at the opposite end of the trough. This is where a drip edge flashing can help direct water into the trough at the lower end.

When thinking about the purpose of an eavestrough system; it essentially designed for drainage.

Having the correct size, and the number of downpipes, and locating them correctly, is key to a successful system.

Where aluminum downpipes are concerned; sizes that are available typically include 2”x3”, 3’x3” and 4”x3” sizes.  It is easy to calculate which size provides increased flow capacity and less restriction versus a smaller sized product. Smaller downpipes have their place when used on dormers or small roof sections, where a larger pipe may appear too large.

 It can be characteristic that subdivision homes receive smaller downpipes when they are built. Likely this can be due to cost. It is suggested for homeowners to upgrade the size of their downpipes when they are faced with replacing their guttering system.

There can be much to discuss and consider the subject of eavestrough systems, To learn more visit www.avenueroadroofing.com or see our work on YouTube™.