According to the nonprofit National Center for Healthy Housing, clean rain gutters are an important part of maintaining a house as well as the health of its occupants. It’s easy to see why: moisture is the root cause of a home’s most destructive and persistent problems, including mold, pests, and decay.

As part of your home’s drainage system, gutters channel roof runoff that would otherwise fall on people as they enter the house, erode the dirt near the foundation, and dribble down to permeate the exterior walls. Without at least two annual cleanings, gutters can become clogged and ineffective, potentially causing or exacerbating the following problems:

Damaged fascia, soffit, and roofs. Clogged gutters can damage your home’s exterior in a variety of ways. Excess water can seep into the soffit, fascia, or wooden framing and cause rot. Water may also flow back up onto the roof and under the shingles, penetrating the layers below and seeping into the home through the ceilings and walls.

Termites, mosquitoes, and other pests. Because termites need water to thrive, gutters that deposit excess water near the house lure the insects and encourage termite infestation. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water and are therefore attracted to the pools that collect in clogged gutters. In fact, the water in clogged gutters can also invite and sustain a variety of other pests that would like to nest in your attic, including birds, squirrels, and mice.

Undermined driveways, patios, and walkways. Excess water flowing into the ground near the house can erode the dirt directly beneath driveways, patios, and walkways. As the dirt is washed away, the structure—whether made of concrete, asphalt, or paver stones—is no longer fully supported and can settle, crack, or even collapse. If you have already experienced this type of damage, be sure to fix any gutter or downspout problems before replacing or repairing the driveway, patio, or walkway.

Basement water damage. Clogged gutters can dump gallons of water directly onto the ground next to the foundation of a house. The spillage will sometimes leak through the foundation wall and then create water problems in the basement or crawl space. Over time, this type of damage can compromise the structural soundness of the house and cause mold or mildew.

Cracked foundations. Loose fill dirt underneath a home’s foundation settles over time. When one section settles more quickly than another section, the added stress put on the foundation causes cracks. Excess water dumped next to the foundation by faulty gutters will exacerbate this issue by shifting the position and density of the soil.

With the potential for clogged, overflowing gutters to create a range of problems—including some, like foundation damage, that can be quite expensive to repair—it only makes sense to see to the health of your gutter system with biannual maintenance. Read our blog about cleaning and inspecting gutters to find out more tips to keep your gutters flowing and your home out of harm’s way.

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Sources: National Center for Healthy Housing; The New York Times.

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