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The Inside Outside Guys: Gutter Mistakes

From The Detroit News | By Ken Calverley and Chuck Breidenstein

DETROIT, May 23, 2024 ~ Does every house in the Midwest need rain gutters? Does every house in the Midwest that has rain gutters have them properly installed, maintained and protected?

The answers are “Yes,” “No,“ “No” and “No.”

Remember the adage that the two most critical components of any building are the foundation and the roof? In this climate, they can also conspire to destroy each other as rain coming off the roof can erode fill against the foundation and saturate the ground surrounding the building.


May 26, 2024 ~ Chuck “The Inside Guy” Breidenstein and Ken “The Outside Guy” Calverly offer the knowledge and resources you need to make the home of your dreams a reality.


Most of our foundations are made of cementitious materials that have an affinity for water, causing them to “wick” moisture from areas of high concentration outside the home through foundation walls to areas of lower concentration inside the home.

We witness the process when we see old barns with neglected roofs that eventually destroyed the foundations.

So, the logical conclusion is to maintain the roof and make certain we take all the water shed from the roof and direct it well away from the home.

Step one is to have a well-designed gutter system to catch all that roof water and channel it away from the foundation.

For those homes with gutters, some food for thought.

The system should be as seamless as possible to minimize leaks and expedite a continuous slope to the downspouts.

The gutter should be flashed, generally tucked up under and behind a metal drip edge so even very slow-moving liquid will be directed to the downspouts.

Proper sizing is critical. A “worst-case scenario” type of thinking here is appropriate. Most gutters are a “K” style, 5-inch trough regardless of roof slope or roof area. In a heavy downpour, you are likely to notice overflow from the roof that deposits water right at your building foundation.

Many companies today offer a 6-inch trough designed to carry up to 60% more water.

Ideally, gutters should be installed to minimize penetrations not only through the back side of the trough, but also into the wood structure supporting the system.

Many homeowners will notice “proud” nails on the gutter face from long spikes, used to originally secure the system, popping out of the wood substrate.

When the gutter is full of water, snow or ice, this can lead to wood rot and infiltration into the sidewall.

To avoid this nail issue, you should shop for a system that is hung on a continuous rail mounted to the facia.

Heavier gauge aluminum is also on the list of “must-haves.” This will help the system endure many years of harsh, Midwestern, weather without the need for repair.

The system should not detract from the building aesthetic. Gutter system specialists today offer a flat or straight-faced design that, properly installed, literally disappears into the roof edge.

Color options also help with this issue as specialty companies offer numerous stock and additional custom colors.

Then we come to the question of gutter protection.

Not every house or even every part of a house needs such help. What generally plugs up a properly installed gutter are branches, leaves, seeds and pine needles.

The first, best, step is to ensure no such item is overhanging the roof to begin with.

The Guys prefer not to see a screen system or one that lies flat upon the top of the gutters. A screen is a filter, and all filters eventually get plugged up and need replacing or servicing.

Additionally, a device that is installed flat upon the gutter might allow for the buildup of debris from surrounding trees and shrubs.

As an example of better thinking, Gutter Helmet, a system installed by Atlas Home Improvement in Whitmore Lake, is installed on a slope and actually tucks up under the second course of shingles.

Keep this list in mind when shopping for this critical building component and read the fine print of any written warranties or guarantees.

Some systems may promise that the gutters will never again need cleaning but may not promise the gutters will actually do what they are supposed to do: direct water away from the foundation.

That is why you need a professional like those you can find every day at InsideOutsideGuys.com.


For more advice, listen to “The Inside Outside Guys” every Saturday and Sunday on 760 WJR from 10 a.m. to noon or contact them at InsideOutsideGuys.com.