Gutters can also prevent your walls from rotting

Home Inspector with Structure Tech Home Inspections

While everyone thinks about gutters being one of the most important aspects of maintaining a dry basement, gutters can also play a major role in preventing water intrusion at the exterior of the home.

As water drains off the roof and hits hard surfaces next to the house, such as decks and patios, a lot of water splashes against the house in an unnatural manner.  Houses are designed to shed water from the top down.  When water travels up against a house or sideways, it can have a devastating effect.

One of the worst areas that I regularly find problems with is where a roof valley dumps water on to a deck, and the water splashes against a patio door.  This will almost always rot the door and  the wall around it.  When gutters are installed and maintained, this doesn't happen.

My inspiration for this post came while doing a home inspection in Eden Prairie on a nineteen year old house.  The home didn't have any gutters, and water drained down from the roof right on to the wood deck.  I noticed some tiny trees growing out of the intersection between the deck and the house, so I suspected there was a nasty mess behind the siding.  Click on the photo below for a larger version.

Tiny trees growing at deck

I told the buyer to have the wall opened up by a carpenter before proceeding with his purchase, so he could get an idea of the scope of the damage.  The buyer met the carpenter at the house, and was kind enough to send me a few photos of the wall with the siding removed.

Water damage at wall

Rotted wall sheathing

Rotted studs

That wall sheathing is severely deteriorated, and a few of the studs were actually mushy.  I'm certain that gutters would have prevented this entire mess.  This is just one more reason to install gutters.

Comments (33)

Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.

Al / Carol - It's a lot better when they do :)

Tom - thanks!

Robert - that's pretty close to what my alternative post title was going to be :)

Donald - absolutely.  Gutters solve a lot of problems.

Jay - I never thought of it that way.  Great point!

The saplings were really the big tipoff.  I poked around with my awl, and the siding was quite mushy right at the deck level.  That's what made me get a little more agressive with my recommendation.

Sep 13, 2011 02:46 PM
Chris Smith
Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage - New Tecumseth, ON
South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta

Reuben, I have seen more homes, OK, all older homes, without gutters of late... I recommend them to my clients.

Sep 13, 2011 04:55 PM
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.

Funny.  I've found that the older the house, the more likely it is that it will have gutters.

Sep 13, 2011 11:07 PM
Joshua Frederick
Home Inspector for ASPEC Residential Services, LLC - Defiance, OH
Home Inspector in Defiance & all of Northwest Ohio

Reuben-  Is it possible water was entering from roof-to-wall intersection?  Lack of kick-out/diverter flashing?

Sep 19, 2011 12:46 AM
Christine Smith
Buyers Brokers Only LLC - - Canton, MA
Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA

I had buyers look at a home without gutters just yesterday.  One of the things on their to do list if they make an offer is to put them up.  Of course, around here, sometimes people have issues with ice dams & remove the gutters thinking it will solve their problem.  It just causes other kinds of issues.

Sep 20, 2011 08:16 AM
Brin Realty Associates Team At Bean Group
Bean Group | Brin Realty Associates - Amherst, NH
Amherst NH homes and Southern NH real estate

Oh that pesky splashback, so true.  And gutters in our area can complicate things on the North Side especially, always something.

Sep 20, 2011 08:22 AM
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.

Joshua - I've seen that happen plenty of times, but that wasn't the case here; this was definitely caused by water splashing back against the house.

Christine - you're completely right.  Gutters have very little to do with ice dams.

Rene - yes, that splashback will definitely cause problems with the house. 

Sep 20, 2011 09:16 AM
Mike Yeo
3:16 team REALTY - Frisco, TX

Wow! That is not what I had in mind on where to grow a plant. Great post and picture helps to see the reality of the effect.

Sep 20, 2011 09:18 AM
Bruce Kunz
C21 Solid Gold Realty, Brick, NJ, 732-920-2100 - Howell, NJ
REALTOR®, Brick & Howell NJ Homes for Sale

Hi Reuben. Nice catch! Nice that the owners were cooperative as well!
As important as having gutters is cleaning them so the water can actually use them. With fall coming it's no easy task at times.

Sep 20, 2011 10:33 AM
Nick Smith
Jpar Live Local - Boise, ID
Boise Idaho Real Estate, We Love Boise

Not only do gutters help keep homes from having water problems but new gutters add to the curb appeal. thanks for the great post.


Sep 20, 2011 10:38 AM
Stephanie Stringer
First Choice Loan Services NMLS#210764 - San Antonio, TX
Mortgage Loan Originator

Another Great Post!   I must start cleaning my gutters more often.  Pretty scary pictures.

Sep 20, 2011 02:33 PM
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

Reuben - That is a lot of damage to that home.  I'm sure the potential buyer was happy with your recommendations.

Sep 20, 2011 03:45 PM
Donald Reich
Prudential Centennial - New Rochelle, NY

Great post.   This is such a common occurence. Homeowners just don't realize how important good gutters are!

Sep 20, 2011 03:47 PM
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.

Mike - no, not my preference either... but it seems to be giving those trees plenty of water :)

Bruce - definitely.  Clogged gutters are pretty worthless.

Nick - that's another point that I never even thought of.

Stephanie - I don't blame you for not wanting to clean your gutters.  That gunk that sits in them can get pretty nasty.

Christine - yes, he definitely was.

Donald - no, and unfortunately, most builders are completely omitting gutters in my area.

Sep 20, 2011 10:49 PM
Gabe Sanders
Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales - Stuart, FL
Stuart Florida Real Estate

Thanks Rueben, great information and especially pertinent to those of us down here in wet Florida.  Important to have gutters, keep them clean and properly functional.

Sep 21, 2011 12:37 AM
Sandy Acevedo
951-290-8588 - Chino Hills, CA
RE/MAX Masters, Inland Empire Homes for Sale

Ih Reuben, I didn't know that gutters could prevent that much damage. It is well worth the investment.

Sep 21, 2011 04:45 AM
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.

Gabe - you got it.

Sandy - absolutely.  Now I just need to get them installed on my own house...

Sep 22, 2011 12:36 AM
1~Judi Barrett
Integrity Real Estate Services 116 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745 - Idabel, OK
BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK

Reuben, What a  great post and with super illustrations.  More of our homes in this area need to have gutters installed.. especialy since we average about 50 inches of rain a year.  This year, it would not have mattered though.

Sep 23, 2011 02:26 PM
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

Lots of important information - and it is important to keep the moisture under control.  Wow, what a mess!

Sep 23, 2011 02:31 PM
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.

Judi - I just don't understand people's hesitation to install them.  I was at a huge house on Thursday, and a contractor was out talking about excavating the soils all around the house and dampproofing the walls because of the basement water problems... but the house didn't have any gutters!  Start with the easy stuff... duh.

Joan - yeah, I was glad to get those photos :) 

Sep 24, 2011 12:27 AM