No doubt, water is a precious resource; we cannot live without it. We worry about the water in the lakes and streams. In the country, we worry about the quality and quantity of the water in our wells. In the city, we worry about where our water is going to come from and how much it’s going to cost us. In some parts of the world where water is scarce, a barrel of water can cost more than a barrel of oil.

    Lately, we are all worried about the future of gas drilling - how will it affect our water, where will they get the huge amount of water needed for the drilling process, and what will they do with all of that contaminated water afterward. As a West African proverb says “Filthy water cannot be washed.”

    Indeed, water is our friend. However, when it comes to the health of your house, water is the enemy! As home inspectors, this is our mantra.

    Every effort should be made to keep water away from your house. Proper grade around the foundation, adequate drainage at the base of the foundation, and a complete, well functioning gutter system will all contribute to keeping the enemy at bay.

    Of these, a gutter system is probably the easiest to accomplish and usually the least expensive - a good place to start. You can do it yourself with just a few hand tools and a ladder, or you can hire a contractor.

    If we don’t find gutters on a house, we ALWAYS recommend  a complete system. We often hear, “Do I really need gutters? The house is built on a slab!” Or, “But the eaves are so wide, why do I need gutters?” Or, “But it’s a double wide!”

    Regardless of the house, gutters are necessary. Water falling from the edge of a roof without a gutter will erode a trench where it falls. Water splashes up from the ground and the bottom courses of the siding will be constantly wet. We often find mold and moss growing on siding in this situation, and sometimes rotten siding and trim boards.

    The main reason for a gutter system, of course, is to keep water away from the foundation. This system includes properly pitched gutters, down spouts, and either surface or underground runoff drains. All parts of the system must be periodically cleaned and checked for clogs. We often find surface runoff drains that have been removed, because of the inconvenience they cause when mowing the lawn, or  simply smashed flat by the riding mower. In either case, a great volume of water will be dumping next to the foundation when it rains.

    There are several gutter options available. Plastic is the cheapest and can be easily installed by the homeowner. It needs to be well attached, and will quickly sag if not. Overtime, plastic will get brittle from the sun and extreme cold.

Copper, stainless steel or wooden gutters are very expensive. Half-round galvanized gutters, common on farmhouses and barns, are fairly inexpensive but will eventually rust.


    Aluminum gutters are often the best option. They are not too expensive, won’t rust, and come in a range of quality and thickness, usually white or brown. Like plastic, they can be installed by the homeowner. Seamless aluminum gutters are even better, with a variety of color options, but they are more expensive and need to be installed by a contractor.

    Remember, water is the enemy.

Campbell and Davies LLC    201 Dey St Suite 211 Ithaca, NY 14850   

607 216 0036    fax 607 216 0402   campbellanddavies@yahoo.com   


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