Month: May 2008

Gutters/Downspouts: the most important system on your home in Salem, Oregon

I am a home inspector in Salem Oregon. Home inspections are generally based on a perfect home. The one issue with that is that there is no such thing as a perfect home.

The job of a competent home inspector is to see and comment on everything. It would be impossible to determine what our clients did or didn’t care about in the thousands of components and systems that we look at. So we comment on everything and let our clients determine what they find important and significant.

Of course there are exceptions such as, in the Salem area of the Willamette valley Oregon, gutters and downspouts. If there is one system that needs to work perfectly it is the gutters and downspouts.

It has everything to do with how we receive rain. In our area the rain comes down relatively slowly. Very seldom do we get sudden volume, like an inch in a few hours, like other parts of the country. Our rain just seems to be slow and constant for about 5 to 6 months.

This means that grading is not terribly important. The soaking rains will soak in to the soil before they have a chance to run towards your home.

Gutters and downspouts however have an absolutely critical role in moisture management. If they are not fully functional they allow excess water to spill on around or under your home for 5 to 6 months. If the gutters are plugged or the seams leak they will spill water on to the soffit, fascia or splash water against the siding for 5 to 6 months! All of this wood and water is an ideal condition for things that eat wood. Fungus, wood boring beetles, and termites will all enjoy the easy refined cellulose meal that is your home.

Plugged downspout?

Even if the gutters appear to be fully functional above ground there is the, out-of-sight-out-of-mind, below grade downspouts. The downspouts going below ground has been very popular for the last 20 years. This is a major source of water intrusion for the crawlspaces in our area. When newly installed the downspouts should hug the foundation around the perimeter of the home and flow toward the storm drain. This is one of the first items to be installed on a new home and possibly vulnerable to damage until it is covered during final grading. If the concrete walkway poured over the pipe damages or disconnects the pipe, it can dump all of the water collected on the roof on to the soil near the crawlspace. This condition can lead to water in the crawlspace but also foundation movement.

Homes are not perfect. Lack of maintenance, wear and age can all have effect on homes. If you own a home in the Salem area of the Willamette valley keep your eyes on your gutters and next time it is raining, investigate your downspouts. They are one of the most important components of your home.