Gutters can sag due to an accumulation of debris or because they have loose brackets. Fixing this is relatively simple and costs nothing.
Start by cleaning the gutter and wire brushing rusty areas. For small holes use roofing cement, spreading a thin layer with a putty knife.
For larger holes use gutter flashing sealant that is formulated for metal and designed to withstand submersion. This type of sealant is also flexible after it dries.
1. Tape the Spikes Back in
Gutters are the unsung heroes of your home. They’re the loyal butlers that divert water away from your house, asking for little more than a bit of TLC in return. But when they’re not doing their jobs correctly, they might as well be screaming at you with a megaphone. Whether it’s the torrent of water pouring over your flower beds, or that not-so-gentle ‘plop plop’ of water falling right on your head as you’re running out the door in the morning, gutter problems can be a real pain.
Gutter maintenance isn’t exactly glamorous, but it’s necessary. When gutters fail, it can lead to rot, damage to your roof, and a myriad of other problems that can cost you big bucks. The good news is that gutter repair is not only relatively easy, but can be done on a low-budget using common materials.
One of the most common issues with gutters is that they start to sag. The problem with this is that it can lead to clogs and prevent water from draining properly. A sagging gutter also can pull at the fascia board and cause it to rot.
To fix a sagging gutter, you’ll need a ladder, a hammer or drill with a bit that’s the same diameter as the hangers on your gutters, and a pair of heavy rubber gloves (or a plastic bucket and a trowel). You may also want to consider a ladder stabilizer to keep it from moving while you’re working on it.
Once you have your tools, the first step is to inspect the gutters for any damage or looseness. Begin by checking for gutter spikes that are hanging out of the holes. If you see a lot of them in one area, it’s a sign that the gutter has become extremely loose. You can tap them back in with a hammer or a rubber mallet.
2. Replace a Loose Spike
A gutter spike is essentially a big nail that gets nailed into a hole in the gutter and the fascia board. If one of these nails loosens it means that the gutter won’t be held properly and will eventually start to sag in that area. If the gutter becomes saggy enough it could also damage the house’s siding or cause water to pour over the side of the house.
Loose gutter spikes are an easy fix that can be done with a ladder and a hammer. While you’re up on the ladder make sure that your feet are firmly on each step and ask someone to hold the bottom of the ladder so you don’t fall. If possible, wear a tool belt to keep your hands free while you’re using the ladder. Once you’ve located a loose spike remove the gutter to access the hole. You should be able to see the pointed end of the spike sticking out of the hole in the gutter. Grab a hammer and a nail and while the gutter is still loose firmly nail the pointed end of the spike back into its hole. Repeat this process for all of the other loose spikes on the gutter.
If you don’t want to do the labor involved in replacing all of your gutter spikes and would prefer something that doesn’t come loose as easily, you can buy gutter hangers at home centers or hardware stores that have hooks instead of nails. These are press formed or stamped, wider and much more sturdy than nails, and they’re also a lot cheaper. When installing these you should be sure to use a hammer and not a screwdriver since the hooks will take more force than screws. You can also add a wooden shim in the front of the gutter to support it if you like.
3. Replace a Sagging Gutter
If the front of your gutter starts forming a lip and hanging down over the edge, it’s likely too loose and needs to be re-secured. Fortunately, this is also an easy fix, especially if you have newer gutters that attach to the fascia board and rafters with hidden screws instead of spikes and ferrules.
First, locate the loose section of gutter that’s sagging by taking a few steps back and looking at it from different angles. You can also use a ladder to spot the problem areas. If the entire gutter is loose, you’ll need to re-secure it all the way around. If only part of it is sagging, the problem may be that the downspouts have loosened from the gutters, which can cause stress in one section of the gutter.
To replace a loose gutter, remove the old gutter hanger by hand or with a pry bar. Then, measure the gutter from the peak to the downspout and snap a chalk line between the two points. This will help you determine which sections need to be re-secured and where.
If you have threaded gutter spikes, you can reuse them if they aren’t bent or damaged. Otherwise, purchase a new set at a home improvement center and screw them into the holes on the fascia board. Be sure to use a screw that is the same size as the original screw, and if you’re concerned about it pulling out again, drip a sliver of epoxy over each hole.
Before installing the new gutter, clean it with a putty knife and scrub brush. If it’s rusty, spray on a coat of protective rubberized coating (such as Rust-Oleum LeakSeal Flexible Rubber Coating; available by the can at home centers). Once the area is clean and dry, install the gutter patch alongside the gutter, pushing it firmly in curves and corners.
4. Replace a Missing Spike
Gutter spikes are essentially big nails that are driven through your gutter and into the fascia board of your house. This was a common way to hang gutters years ago, but it’s less common now that many homes have replaced them with gutter hangers. The problem with spikes is that they don’t hold very well, and loose ones can pull away from the gutter or drop off completely.
One of the easiest ways to check for loose gutter spikes is to look around your gutter. If you see a large section that looks like it’s missing a spike, then chances are that it is. Look for a hole in the gutter where it was supposed to be, and then see if you can find the spike on the roof (this is a good time to use the gutter scoop or a wide putty knife).
The other thing that can cause a missing spike is the gutter itself pulling loose from the fascia board. This happens when water gets behind the gutter and softens or rots the wood. Then the gutter will either pull loose in that area or start sagging in that area.
The best way to fix this is to replace the old spike and ferrule system with new gutter hangers. These attach to the fascia board instead of the rafter, and they have threads that screw into the wood and hold it better than spikes. Be sure to examine the fascia board for any rot or damage before installing the hangers. Once the new hardware is in place, patch any holes with roofing cement. Make sure the patch matches the gutter material (steel for steel and aluminum for aluminum). Once the repair is done, use a quality exterior sealant to lock out dirt and moisture.
5. Fix a Dripping Downspout
If your gutter downspout is leaking or separated from the gutter, a quick fix will prevent water damage to the house. Most leaky downspouts are caused by broken silicone or caulk joints. To reseal these joints, first clean and dry the area around the joint. Then, using a knife, cut through the existing silicone or caulk layer. This will free the joint for resealing and allow you to inspect it for further damage. Once the old seal is removed, apply a new sealant such as roofing cement to both surfaces of the joint. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for drying or curing time.
You can also install a gutter downspout extension to help reduce dripping noise. This extension provides a pathway for larger amounts of water to flow without hitting the metal gutter hangers. This trick is especially useful for downspouts that turn into elbows near the top of the gutter system.
Over time, gravity can work on downspout joints to open them up or they can get jostled and loosen over time. This is a common problem for homeowners. But with a few simple repairs, you can keep your downspout joints tight and reliable for years to come.
If your downspout joints are leaking, you can easily reseal them with a commercial gutter sealer. Look for a product that is designed specifically for gutters and has the ability to handle submersion. You can find this at most home centers. If your gutters have been painted, you will need to use a paint stripper to remove the old paint from the joint before applying the new gutter sealer. Be sure to wear safety glasses and a face mask to protect yourself from the chemicals in the stripper