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Understanding the Gutters and Its Huge Role in a Good Roofing System

Updated on November 17, 2013

Flat Roof Leaks

A flat roof is a type of covering for structures. It is very different from typical roof structures because it uses materials different from the pitched ones. It is of course flat, as the name suggests, and is generally parallel with the base or foundation. They also are very thick and heavy because of the additional layers and membranes that prevent water from seeping into the living space and prevent flat roof leaks.

Causes of flat roof leaks

Because of its shape, it is hard to determine the cause and the location of the flat roof leak. This is because water flows and follows the path of least resistance through the many layers. The layers within the structure further masks and disperse the leak.

Flat roofs, especially the popular green roofs, tend to collect more rainwater than pitched ones. Built up roofs (BUR) are traditional hot-tar-and-gravel sandwiched between waterproof materials. Because of the many layers, this type of flat roof tends to be heavy but it's fire retardant and is very cheap. Modified Bitumen flat roofs are the thinnest type. It uses a single layer which is dosed with mineral based wear. . Rubber uses EPDM (short for ethylene propylene diene monomer) or true rubber. It is light, easy to install, resistant to sunlight and scratches and installation friendly. This type is rather expensive and mostly comes in black.

Another great way to manage the water that may pool or seep into the layers and cause flat roof leaks would be installing an adequate gutter system.

Types of gutter system

Gutters or rain gutters – in context with this article – is an important component of a roofing system which collects and diverts rain water away from the building and prevent damage to the foundation, structure and painted surfaces. There are certain types of gutter for specific roofing systems.

  • Roof integral trough is a common rain gutter situated at the edge of the roof. This type is used for pitched roof.
  • A discrete trough of metal is a suspended gutter system also at the edge of the roof. It is also used for pitching roofs.
  • Wall integral structure is like a built in gutter beneath the roof edge. It also serves as main features of flat roofs.
  • A box gutter is concealed within the structure of the roof beneath or in between the layers of protective membranes in flat roofs.
  • A seamless gutter is a continuous roll formed gutter which requires professionals or aide services just for installation.
  • Fascia gutters is a combination of an open gutter and a fascia installed directly on the roof rafters.
  • For high capacity, square gutters are highly recommended.
  • Round gutters have semi circle shapes also capable of handling large amounts of water and are also self-cleaning.
  • Quad or D gutters have become popular recently because it can be easily and perfectly merged with existing gutters. It can also be made with slots for heavy rainfall.

Gutter materials also vary and can be optimized for the roofing system you prefer.

  • Vinyl gutters are the easiest to install and recommended to do it yourself installation. It does not rust or corrode and is very cheap. It is also light weight. They can turn brittle and crack in extreme cold. This material is good for immediate installation and not for long term use.
  • Aluminum gutters are cost effective, light weight, rust proof, malleable, and weather resistant. They are also very soft so they are structurally unstable. They dent and bend easily.
  • Steele and Copper gutters are cost wise for the long term. They are sturdy but they rust easily. Regularly cleaning and maintenance improve the gutters lifespan.
  • Stainless steel gutters are virtually indestructible. They are rust proof but are rather expensive.
  • Wood gutters are the classic gutters used mainly in restoring historical structures.

Gutter size also factors in on your decisions. The standard gutter size is 5 to 6 inches. These standards are what manufacturers and suppliers typical have. But if you are in an area which experiences a number heavy rainfall or would opt for heavy duty cutters, you can ask about larger sizes. Some have 7 to 8 inch gutter sizes available.

As mentioned above, your location is another thing to consider. Research the weather for the past 10 years. Note for the time when large storms regularly hit your area. Also account for the amount of precipitation.

Gutter leaks

Clogging is the gutters main problem. Most homes use open gutters which also collect leaves and other debris along with rain water. This unnecessary collection of debris clogs and causes rain water to overflow. A gutter leak is the flow of water outside the gutter space which can damage the building.

Gutter repair and maintenance

Maintaining the gutters in their tip top shapes prevents gutter leaks. Doing minor gutter repairs immediately prevents further damage and higher costs of repair or re-install. An open gutter requires cleaning twice a year or when debris has accumulated enough to cause clogging. Grabbing a broom or using a blower is the basics to gutter maintenance. Gutter protectors and gutter covers can also be used to prevent clogging. Ice and snow also pose a similar problem. De-icing salts and other methods could be used to prevent clogging caused by snow and ice.

Repairing a gutter leak depends on the material used, the type of gutter system, and the extent of damage. Sagging is the detaching of the gutter or parts of the gutter from the roof. A solution to this is using a longer screw to secure the detached part. Leaks and holes on metal gutters can be patched with sealants like roofing cement or aluminum patch. Plastic gutters are easier to repair. It can be repaired by clipping or patching with another plastic segment. As for complex gutter systems, it is better to seek help from the experts.

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    • SolveMyMaze profile image

      SolveMyMaze 4 years ago

      I think when it comes to guttering, people don't really acknowledge it until there's a problem with it and then they start panicking over it.

      After reading through your list, I would be extremely tempted to get gutters made from stainless steel. I would say the cost is well worth it considering it's near indestructible.

    • BuildingRoofing profile image
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      Lee Jones 4 years ago from Shipley, Derbyshire

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