Q: Do houses have to have gutters all around the roof? Mine are always getting clogged. Any reason why I can’t remove the ones that aren’t over an entrance?
A: Houses don’t have to have gutters. But before you rip yours off, we suggest you think through the reasons for doing so and the alternatives we’re about to suggest. Simply having to clean clogged gutters every so often isn’t reason enough in our minds to tear them off.
Gutters are also known as troughs in some parts of the country. They serve an important purpose. With their accompanying downspouts they direct rainwater landing on the roof of a house away from its foundation. Gutters also keep water cascading off the roof over a doorway from landing on your head.
Rainwater landing next to the foundation can eventually find its way inside a basement or crawl space. The runoff creates a moist habitat ideal for the growth of mold and mildew. Worse yet, runoff can undermine the foundation.
We don’t recommend it, but, if you go gutterless, make sure there is another way to channel rainwater away from the foundation.
Kevin decided to go without gutters when we built his Idaho house. He lives in a semi-desert — average annual rainfall of about 11 inches. His house is surrounded by at least 3 feet of concrete sidewalk, which is sloped away from the house. Water is channeled away from the house and onto the grass. The roof is also pitched so that runoff does not discharge over doorways.
Might we suggest an alternative way to prevent leaves and other debris from clogging your gutters? Consider covering your gutters with one of a number of gutter-shield products available on the market.
Over the years, we’ve seen products that claim to keep gutters free of debris while allowing rainwater to enter the gutter itself. Essentially these devices are curved gutter covers that take advantage of the adhesive properties of flowing water, also known as capillary action, to channel the water over the cover into the gutter. The opening for the water to enter the gutter is smaller than a normal leaf, so leaves and other debris don’t enter the gutter but wash over the cover and fall to the ground.
Our first exposure to one of these products was on television. Several years ago Kevin saw an episode of "This Old House" on which builder Tom Silva demonstrated one of these products. It appeared to perform well, allowing water to enter the gutter while channeling the leaves of a New England maple to the ground.
A franchise operation named Gutter Helmet offers installation of a similar product. For a short movie and information on how the product works go to www.gutterhelmet.com. You can also punch in your ZIP code and find a local dealer.
Two years ago we ran across a product called "The WaterFall" at the Pacific Coast Builders show. Made by Crane Products, it’s an easy install. The only installation requirement with the gutter-guard system is the ability to follow the instructions and the willingness to get up on a ladder.
"The WaterFall" clips to the edge of a standard gutter, slides under the roof shingles and requires no fasteners. The company claims the step-down design can handle up to 10 inches of rain per hour and sheds leaves while allowing water to enter the gutter.
At $2.50 to $3 per linear foot ($5 to $8 professionally installed), this product could eliminate the need to clean gutters for many years to come. For more information, go to www.water-fall.cc/.
The bottom line is that you are not required to have gutters. You can indeed remove them. But if you do, we strongly recommend you make sure you have enough hardscape around the house to channel the runoff away from the foundation. We think the better way is to install one of the gutter-shielding devices. That gives you the best of both worlds: adequate drainage and no leaves.
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