How to Inspect Gutters Without a Ladder

How to inspect gutters featured image - view of gutters in the rain from the ground

Most gutter DIY content online involve gloves, a ladder, a spotter, a moat, and a boat. Okay, we are exaggerating. But sometimes DIY posts aren’t actually DIY. They require a lot of work and supplies. What if you don’t own a ladder? What if it’s not safe for you to use a ladder? And what if you live alone? We are going to walk you through how to inspect gutters without a ladder.

Why do I need to inspect my gutters?

View of gutters with loose downspout and plant debris

Most gutter systems last an average of 20 years. However, even if your gutters “last” that long, that doesn’t mean they’ll always be working properly. As a reminder, your gutter system has a few key functions. These include…

  1. Collecting water from the roof.
  2. Diverting water away from your home.
  3. Protecting your roof, siding, fascia, foundation, and yard from water damage.

With all that in mind, even if your gutters are surviving, they may not be thriving. Not only that, they may not be performing their necessary functions. What’s worse, if your gutters are not working well, they could damage other parts of your home including your roof, siding, fascia, and foundation.

We all know it’s easy to ignore home maintenance projects until they come knocking at your door (sometimes literally, if your neighborhood gets door-to-door solicitors). But if you wait until the issue is obvious, that means it’s also probably really bad.

What if instead, you took ten minutes, twice a year, to do a quick gutter inspection? In doing so, you can spot and correct any problem areas before they cause serious damage. In most instances, the sooner you spot a problem, the simpler and cheaper the fix. While you may not be able to correct every issue yourself, you’ll at least be aware of any problems and know when it’s time to correct them.

So, let’s dive in. We are going to show you how you can inspect your gutters both when it’s raining and when it’s dry outside. Choose one or both inspection methods, though we recommend doing both if possible.

How to Inspect Gutters in the Rain:

How to inspect gutters in the rain: Front porch in the rain

So you notice it’s raining outside. Let’s grab an umbrella and rain boots, step outside, and inspect your gutter system!

Check your gutters for…

1. Leaking corners and seams

This is an indicator either of cracks in your gutters, clogged gutters, or missing caulking.

For one thing, gutters can slowly develop cracks over time. Secondly, clogged areas of your gutters can develop leaks. Since the standing water has nowhere to go, it will try to seep out any crook or cranny it can find. Lastly, if a section’s seam has caulk that is worn away, water will seep through the seam.

2. Pooling water in the yard or driveway

More often than not, pooling water can cause serious damage to your driveway, yard, and foundation. If you notice this problem, then your gutters are not properly diverting water away from the house.

3. Pooling water in the gutters

This is best to check on shortly after the rain stops. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to see from the ground. However, if you have a two story house, you can take a look at your first floor gutters from a second story window.

4. Overflowing water from the tops of the gutters

While this is a common issue, it does have many different causes. To learn about why your gutters may be overflowing, check out our guide to gutter overflow.

5. Water flowing behind the gutters

Surprisingly, the most common cause of this issue is actually your roof. When the shingles along the edge of the roofline are too short, water will fall down behind the gutter. In other instances, if your roof does not have drip edge, water can stick to the shingles and seep behind the gutters down the fascia and siding.

Of course, sometimes water behind the gutters is an issue with, well, the gutters. The gutter could have a bubble or bent section on the back of the segment so it isn’t flush to the fascia. Other times, your gutters could be coming loose from the fascia, creating a large gap between the gutters and the wall.

6. Water shooting past the gutters

Lastly, when you have a steep roof or a large valley on your roof, water sometimes shoots past the gutters instead of flowing into them. A valley acts like a funnel that collects the roof rainwater and directs it to one place. When the water flows fast enough or in large quantities, it can shoot past the gutters.

How to Inspect Gutters When It’s Dry:

How to inspect gutters when it's dry: Dented downspout

While it’s dry outside, you can inspect your gutters for signs of age and obvious problem areas.

Since this inspection is fairly straightforward, we’ll forgo the explanations.

Check your gutters for…

  1. Dents
  2. Stains
  3. Rust
  4. Debris on the roof or gutter system
  5. Loose pieces
  6. Missing or disconnected pieces (check each downspout)
  7. Standing water

Now that you’ve completed your DIY gutter inspection and noted some problems, let’s talk about how to fix them. While some problems are quick fixes that you can DIY, others may require a gutter professional.

How to Repair Your Gutters

Gutters with fall debris

DIY fixes:

Water pooling on the ground?

While sometimes this is an indication of a larger problem, other times it’s a quick fix. You can purchase downspout extension hoses from your local home improvement store and attach them to the ends of your downspouts.

Leaking seams?

A leaking seam is a quick fix. Purchase a tube of gutter caulk, make sure the interior of the seam is clean, then apply a thin layer of caulk along the seam. Be sure to do this when it is dry outside as the caulk takes time to dry. If you are not comfortable doing this yourself, you can hire a local gutter expert to repair the areas.

Debris and plant life?

This is DIY-optional. You can clean the gutters yourself or hire a professional. To learn how to clean your own gutters, see our Top Ten Gutter Cleaning Tips post.  As an alternative, you can permanently fix this issue with quality gutter guards.

Professional fixes

Dents, rust, or missing pieces?

If your gutters are less than 20 years old, you could hire a gutter expert to replace or reattach a a specific segment or piece. If, however, your gutters are 20+ years old, it may be time to replace them.

Pooling water?

In the gutters: If your gutters are clean but still have pooling water, you will want to have a gutter contractor correct the gutter pitch. The pitch is the angle your gutters are installed at in order to allow rainwater to flow down toward the downspout. With an improper pitch, the rainwater will pool in one section of the gutter run.

On the ground: If downspout extension hoses to not correct this issue, you may need to contact a yard drainage specialist to inspect your landscaping and offer their recommendations.

Overflowing gutters?

If the gutters are clean but still overflowing, you will want to have a professional inspect the gutters to determine the root cause. You may need to upgrade to a larger size gutter. In other cases, you may be able simply to increase the number of downspouts or upgrade to larger downspouts.

Overshooting water?

Easy fix: have a gutter contractor install a splash guard to catch the overshooting rainwater and direct it back into the gutter. If you’re extra handy, you could also install it yourself. Just check your gutter warranty first to make sure it won’t void any manufacturer or workmanship warranties.

Water flowing behind the gutters?

As discussed above, this could have multiple causes. We recommend calling a contractor that specializes is roofing and gutters so that they can accurately diagnose and correct the issue. Unfortunately, this is a more expensive fix, as it can be difficult to add drip edge, and near impossible to extend the lengths of shingles. However, you can talk to a roofing expert to explore the different options and come to a solution.

We hope this post was informative and helpful as you work to maintain your home! If you have any questions, let us know in the comments.

Need a professional fix or gutter inspection? Call Quality Seamless Gutters at 919-444-5042 or request an estimate here.