Rain gutters look different on homes in New Mexico. With a flat roof and walls that rise above the roof, gutters are used to keep a house free of water damage by directing the water away from the house. Gutters whether they're on a slopped roof or a flat roof, all work to remove water from the roof AND away from the foundation of houses.
This photo (left) shows 4 gutters in the top row, right over the 9 vigas or long wood beams that stick out from the outer facade of the roof. What's fascinating is how common gutters are in New Mexico even though they have relatively little rainfall compared to the northwest and eastern half of the US. But when it rains, it pours … and the potential for water damage along the foundation of the house is just as real.
Rain gutters are one of the more controversial features of a home. Builders typically don't install them to save money. Homeowners don't want to clean and maintain gutters, so they don't install them after moving into a new home. When they buy an existing home without gutters, they assume they're not necessary or the prior owners would have installed them. Want to learn why gutters are a good investment?
How Rain Gutters Protect Your Home
Your home is subject to the weather and water is harmful when it penetrates your home's exterior envelope. Where most homes are 1,000 square feet on a single floor, rain water that falls over this area is concentrated in a very narrow band or line at the bottom of each sloping/straight roof. A 2400 square foot home with a ridge vent and 2 gable ends might have 80 linear feet along the 2 sides of the house, where all rain water would concentrate and potentially cause damage. A hipped roof with 4 sides sloping down from the peak would be less vulnerable with 140 linear feet catching falling rainwater.
The primary role of gutters is to channel water away from the base of the house where it's likely to collect and find it's way inside the foundation. There are many ways that gutters protect your home, including:
- Water beating down along your roof line can pool and penetrate your foundation or slab, causing leaks in basements and crawlspaces.
The ground surrounding your home should slope away from the house to avoid water pooling around the foundation. Unfortunately with new construction, this ground often settles in the first few years are being refilled and home owners aren't aware of the potential problem.
- Without gutters, water can damage landscaping and cause soil erosion around your home.
- Water hitting dirt close to the house can create a mess when the dirt splashes back against the siding.
- Concentrated water hitting decks and door entrances can splash back against the house causing high moisture levels which can lead to wood rot.
- Safety entering and leaving a home may be a problem when people run to avoid a downpour and/or water freezing on walkways.
- Falling water may hit windows and leak, causing water damage inside the walls or on interior walls.
- Rain water may find gaps in the siding, and when trapped behind siding, water can support mold growth and other problems.Even brick and stone siding can be damaged when water forms ice in cracks.
- Repeated exposure to rain water can reduce how long your home's painted surfaces last before they need to be re-painted.
Alternatives to Rain Gutters
The goal of gutters is to move rain water away from your home before any problems occur. There aren't a lot of alternatives to gutters as even a good slope can be eroded over time by the water beating down. When your roof has an overhang of at least 6 inches past your homes walls, here are 2 options:
- A concrete apron extending at least 6 inches past the roof overhang can be poured around the foundation, sloping away from the house.
- Instead of a concrete apron, gravel or stone can catch the rain water but this solution requires a drainage system, below or above ground, to carry the water away from the house. The photo to the right shows in the lower, left corner, a stone channel running between 2 homes in New Mexico.
- Homeowners who aren't ready to install gutters, will sometimes install a rain diverter (see example) over the front door so people entering the home won't get wet.
Learn more about rain gutters and other seasonal home maintenance chores you need to take care of to protect your home from water damage and more.
- Beautiful Gutters for Your Home Renovation
- Exterior Home Maintenance Checklist to Inspect Your Home
- Why & Where to Caulk Around Your Home