We’ve had some pretty intense rain and snow over the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately, when this happens I usually get a few calls from people looking for help because of a sudden leak in the roof or water in a previously dry basement. When trying to diagnose who to refer them to for help, one one of the first questions I ask is: “Have you cleaned your gutters lately?” Frequently, the answer is “no”.

If you’ve owned a home for a while, you know that water entering the home can be at least a hassle and at worst a cause of major destruction. One of the primary ways to protect your home from undesirable moisture is installing gutters and keeping the gutters you have clean by making this part of your annual spring and fall maintenance checklist. I recommend doing this when the pollen has stopped falling in the springtime and when the leaves have come down in late fall. Pro tip: It’s also a good time to take a peek at your roof and see if you can identify any loose shingles, flashing issues or changes that look funky that you might want to nip in the bud.


Most people think that the sole purpose of rain gutters is to direct water coming off the roof toward downspouts to keep it from dripping on their heads over doorways. The value of gutters is much more than that, however. Not only that, water moving off a roof can roll under the drip edge of the roof and seep under soffits and eaves, weakening the wood. It seeps between the joints or masonry and the framework, exposing your home to mold and other damage. If subject to freezing temperatures, the water inside the wood freezes and swells, causing internal damage to beams, joists and framing.

When water is controlled, instead of just pouring off of the roof slope, it can:

  • Prevent damage to exterior siding, trim and roofing.
  • Prevent staining on the home’s exterior.
  • Prevents leak in the home’s interior
  • Stabilize soil and the home’s foundation.
  • Prevent sidewalks, patios and driveways from settling and landscaping from erosion.
  • Protect basements and crawl spaces from flooding and mold issues.

Doing gutters right

There is much more to gutter installation than simply hanging them from the eaves. In order for gutters to function correctly, they need to have the correct pitch. In general, the gutters should drop one inch in slope for every ten feet in length so that the water runs toward the downspout rather than pooling up in a low spot.

Check your gutters to make certain they are correctly sloped by placing a hose at the closed end of your gutter and allow the running water to gently flow into and through the gutter. Water should only flow toward the downspout.

Downspouts matter too

Make certain that your downspouts actually direct water away from the structure of your home. Optimal would be extending the terminal end of the downspout several feet away from your home’s foundation or onto a concrete or vinyl downspout extension. Alternatively, install underground drainage that leads away from your home’s foundation to the street gutter, or to a drywell.

Sometimes, the end of the downspout gets damaged or smashed. When this happens, water and debris can back up into the downspout and gutter, rendering them useless and setting up your home for potential damage.


The simple act of semi annual gutter cleaning can save you from quickly developing more serious and expensive issues that can undermine your home’s value. Nobody wants a home with a leaky roof, rotting siding or a wet or moldy basement! If you’re looking at a home to buy, make sure the home has gutters installed. If you want to increase the value of a home you own and may eventually be selling, installing gutters and regularly maintaining them gives you and potential buyers peace of mind about potential water problems.

The Allison Ziefert Real Estate Group is a top producing real estate team based at Compass in Short Hills, NJ. We are local market experts, specializing in real estate and homes in Maplewood, South Orange, Millburn/Short Hills, Montclair and West Orange, NJ and the surrounding towns. We are driven by earning great testimonials and referral business from happy clients. You can read our testimonials at www.azhomesnj.com/testimonials.