During rain and snow storms, your home’s gutters are hard at work, properly diverting water and keeping any precipitation from leaking through your roof or damaging your foundation. While you may not think much about your gutters, keeping them in tip-top shape is one of the most important home maintenance tasks.
“Failing gutters can attract pests, cause ice dam build-ups, and flooding,” says Adam Graham, a construction industry analyst at Fixr.com, which offers home remodeling cost guides and connects homeowners with service professionals.
Ahead, learn how often gutters and downspouts need to be replaced, find out how much gutter installation costs, as well as how maintenance tasks can help extend the life of your gutters.
The lifespan of gutters and downspouts varies among different types of materials, says Graham. If your gutters are made out of galvanized steel or aluminum, you can expect them to last about 20 years, he says. Copper gutters, though, can last up to 60 years if regularly maintained.
Gutters may need to be replaced more frequently on homes located in areas with extreme weather conditions, says Anna Karp, CEO and cofounder of Bolster, a design and build firm in New York City and a licensed general contractor.
If the gutters are sagging or the nails and fasteners are broken, they may need to be replaced, Karp says. Visible dents, rust, or other signs of decay are also red flags that your gutters require maintenance or need to be swapped out, she says.
When gutters aren’t working properly or they’re blocked with leaves and debris, rainwater may not drain properly and can cause leaks and water damage.
“Leaks are a home’s worst enemy, and spotting leaks early is crucial,” she says.
If water channels appear on ground level, or you have leaks or mold in your basement, this can also mean that gutters and downspouts are not directing rainwater away from the home as they should, Graham says.
The best time to assess the condition of your gutter is during a heavy downpour, says Kyle Davies, director of Handyman Hunter, a UK-based company that provides construction and maintenance work. Look for areas where water may be leaking either at the bottom (drips) or the top (overflow) of your gutter.
In general you can expect to pay around $1,400 for materials and labor to replace your gutters, Graham says. This estimate is based on seamless aluminum box gutters of 150 linear feet and four downspouts. However, the type of material you use, the amount used, and the type of gutters you opt for all affect the price of your gutter project, so Fixr estimates that the national average can range from $900 to $5,000.
Vinyl (PVC) and galvanized steel are the most affordable materials for gutters, Graham says, whereas copper, wood, and galvalume are the most expensive.
Variables that can affect prices include any upcharge for a color other than white, difficulty to install, number of downspouts, and the number of screwed hangars that are needed, explains Austin Jewel, a licensed roofer and co-owner of Capitol Improvements in Bowie, Maryland.
To help keep your gutters in tip-top shape, Kevin Busch, VP of Operations for Mr. Handyman, a Neighborly company, recommends clearing out built-up leaves and debris from the gutters periodically. Clear gutters will drain faster and help prevent roof leaks, he says.
If this is a maintenance project you’d rather contract out, a professional gutter cleaning service costs roughly $150 to $225 for 150 linear feet of gutters on a single-story house, Graham says.
While checking gutters, homeowners should pay special attention to whether or not there are early signs of overflowing water, leaks, or cracks, Graham says. You could get an annual inspection for $75 to $200.
“One way to keep your gutters in good shape and eliminate the need to clean them often is installing gutter guards,” he says. “Gutter guards prevent leaves and other debris from getting in the gutter and they cost around $2 to $12 per linear foot.”
Maintaining gutters can also help prevent ice damming, a condition which forms when rooftop snow melts and refreezes, building up thick layers of ice that eventually push into joints and cracks in the roof and cause leaks, according to Farmers Insurance. Based on historical Farmers data, nearly 20 percent of all winter-related claims are ice damming claims.