Loose Gutters: Common Signs and How to Fix

Did you look up at your gutters and realize they are sagging and no longer draining water? Well, this problem is more common than you may think, especially with older homes.

Today, we’re going to look at the possible causes of loose gutters and talk about easy ways to fix the problem.

How to Identify if your Gutters are Loose or Misaligned

water draining down the gutters that aren't sagging or misaligned.

You may be thinking, obviously my gutters are sagging! I can see them! They are droopy, misaligned, and do not work. Well if that’s you, skip to the next section for the fixes.

In some scenarios, your gutters may be misaligned or loose, but you can’t tell visually. That’s because if the gutters are slightly misplaced it can completely mess with the flow of water and back the whole system up. Nobody wants gutters that don’t drain, because that’s their….entire purpose for existing.

Here are the common signs your gutters are misaligned.

1. Gutters are Obviously Sagging

This one is a simple visual inspection. Sometimes you don’t even need a ladder and you can tell from the ground. Simply look at your gutters from a variety of different angles to check and see if any are pulling away from your house or are lower than they should be.

We’re looking for any gutter that seems out of place. Just remember, that if the gutters are not angled properly, the rainfall that flows through will not be channeled down the downspouts. Instead it will just sit in your gutters until it overflows.

This can cause serious damage to your fascia (the wooden board your gutters attach to), the siding, and even the foundation of your home (ouch!).

If you’ve identified loose gutters as your issue, we’ll talk about how to fix them soon.

2. Water Dripping Behind the Gutters

Another sign of misaligned or sagging gutters is water dripping behind the gutters.

This is a big issue that you want to fix fast. If water is dripping behind your gutters, you can expect your fascia to begin to rot, your siding to get exposed to the elements, and even the ceiling inside your home getting wet.

Nobody wants a ceiling that’s sagging and yellow from water damage.

If there is water dripping behind you gutters, it could be caused from the sagging gutters. What usually happens is that as the gutters sag, it will pull your gutter drip edge out of place, leading to an opening for water to fall through and leak behind the gutters.

If you’re not a gutter expert, the gutter drip edge is a small piece of aluminum that gets installed between the roof and gutter to ensure that the water enters the gutters and does not drip behind the gutters.

So if you do experience this issue, your gutters may need to be realigned and have the gutter drip edge put back into it’s proper place.

3. Gutter Spikes are Poking Out

Most older homes are installed used an older bracket style called spike and ferrule. This type of gutter bracket has a spike that is driven into your fascia (the wooden board on your house the gutters attach to) and that holds the gutters in place.

Spike and ferrule gutter brackets are known for slipping out over a long enough period of time. This is because changes in temperature cause the spikes to expand and shrink, making them slip out of the fascia and gutters.

There is a telltale sign that your gutter spikes are slipping out, you can easily SEE them poking out from your gutters (see image on right).

On my home, I could see the gutter spikes slipping out. It’s easy enough to see that even though the gutters are on the 2nd story, I could see them from the ground.

Luckily, this issue is very easy to fix. Either rehammer the gutter spikes back in, or replace them with the newer gutter bracket style.

People commonly use hidden hanger brackets nowadays, as it gives a cleaner look, but we’ll get into that more later.

Spike and ferrule are not commonly used anymore unless you’re looking to do a DIY project.

gutter spikes slipping out

Note: This can also happen due to a rotting fascia.

4. Rainwater Not Flowing Properly

If your rainwater is not draining, that’s a big red flag that your gutters are sagging or are misaligned.

If rainwater is not making it down your downspouts, they need to fixed as soon as possible before any major damages to your home can occur.

Overtime, its normal for your gutters to shift and move a little bit, but if they move enough where water no longer drains that’s a big problem.

Usually, the gutter brackets will just need to be reinstalled or in some cases the fascia will have rotted and it will need to be replaced as well.

This can also be caused by not having enough downspouts.

How To Fix Sagging Gutters

Now that we’ve seen the symptoms of sagging gutters, let’s get into the details on how to fix this headache of a problem.

1. Hammer the Gutter Spikes Back In

If you’ve identified your gutter spikes as the issue, and you can see them poking out of your gutters, luckily this is a simple and affordable fix.

Whether you do it yourself or pay a contractor, it’s one of the easier fixes.

All you need is a hammer, a ladder, and a level. Grab your ladder and climb up to where you see the loose gutter spikes.

When you get to the loose gutter spike, before you hammer it back in we want to make sure that the gutters are angled with the proper slope so that water runs to your downspout.

Grab the level and put it against the gutters. You want the air bubble in the level to be slightly off center so that the water will run the right direction. Avoid over angling the gutters too much if you can help it.

I’ve included a link to a helpful video for this part.

Once you’ve identified the ideal angle for your gutters, hold them in place at that angle and them hammer the spikes back in.

You can either hammer the spikes back into the existing hole, which is much easier to do. The downside to this, however, is that if the existing hole is too large, the gutter spikes will slip back out again sooner than you might want.

So another option, is you can hammer the spikes an inch to the left or the right and create a new hole so they stay in place for a longer period of time.

Ultimately, the decision is up to you depending on how secure the bracket will be if you use the existing hole.

Once all of the gutter spikes are hammered back into place and the gutters are aligned properly, you should be prepared for the rainy season.

2. Replace Gutter Spikes with Hidden Hanger Gutter Brackets

If your gutter spikes are loose and you don’t simply want to hammer them back in, you can opt for a more permanent solution. You can install hidden hanger gutter brackets.

Hidden hanger gutter brackets are the current standard for gutters. Why?

Hidden hangers are much more secure, so they don’t tend to slip out like spike and ferrule brackets and you can’t see them. This can boost curb appeal while also increasing the longevity of your gutters. Win-win, right?

The only downside is they take a bit more work to install.

You’ll need to purchase all of the hidden hanger gutter brackets for this project, here is a guide that’ll help you choose how many gutter hangers that you will need.

Or you can simply hire a contractor to do this job. Luckily, replacing the brackets is relatively affordable.

Then you’ll need to pull out all of the older spike and ferrule brackets before installing the hidden hangers.

Once that’s done, you’re ready to put in the new brackets.

3. Realign the Gutters for Proper Water Flow

If you’re gutter spikes aren’t poking out, then it’s possible your gutters may need a simple realignment.

You can do this by climbing up to your gutters and holding a level against them. You want the gutters to be slightly angled so that the water will flow towards the downspouts.

The general rule of thumb for the gutter slope is 1/2 inch for every 10 feet of gutter.

Once you’ve identified the problem areas where the gutters are sagging too much or too little, we can realign them.

To do this, you (or a contractor) need to remove the bracket and reinstall it so the gutters are at the new ideal angle.

This is also a good time to make sure the gutter drip edge is installed correctly so the water is actually making into the gutters and not behind the gutters. As explained earlier, the gutter drip edge is a small piece of metal that gets placed between the roof and the gutters to ensure proper water flow.

What Usually Causes Gutters to Sag?

Now that we know how to identify and fix sagging gutters, let’s figure out what actually causes your gutters to sag.

If you know the causes, then you can identify when your gutters may need some maintenance, a simple cleaning, or if they need to be replaced.

Knowledge is power, after all.

Natural Wear and Tear

Ah yes, good ol’ mother nature. Given enough time, everything begins to wear down. Even gutters that have been perfectly installed, will begin to sag, rust, or simply stop working.

Wear and tear can be even more intense in areas with a lot of rain or even if you get any form of extreme weather such as intense heat or cold.

Heat can cause your gutters to expand and shift over time. With cold weather, ice and snow can put extra weight on your gutters and cause them to sag.

If you live in area with a lot of trees and leaves, your gutters can fill up fast and get weighed down with mud and leaves. This can also cause sagging.

So if you live in one of the climates as described above, it could be a good idea to get your gutters checked out more frequently to be cleaned and maintained.

Clogging

When you think of gutters, the first thing you probably think of is climbing up on a wobbly ladder and scooping leaves out of your gutters, am I right?

Well, there’s a reason you think that. It’s because the number one enemy of gutters is clogging.

With enough leaves and mud, you create a whole ecosystem in your gutters. Before you know it, you’ve got plants growing, snakes have moved in, and all sorts of creepy crawlies call your gutters their home.

Then your gutters no longer drain water, the downspouts get completely clogged, and your fancy gutters are just an ornament to your home. They don’t work anymore.

To combat this issue, paying for a regular gutter cleaning twice a year can prevent any major issues from happening and keep your gutters in tip-top shape.

Or if you are feeling spunky, you can climb up on a ladder and scoop out all of the gunk on your own.

Improper Installation

As painful as it may be, sometimes shortcuts are taken when homes are built. The gutters may not have been installed correctly.

Unfortunately, this is more common than you may think as developers are in a rush to build as many homes as they possibly can. Or the previous homeowner chose to DIY the project without doing enough research.

If this is the case, they may have installed the gutters in a way so they don’t drain properly. Perhaps they didn’t slope the gutters correctly so the water drains, or they didn’t add enough downspouts, or the gutter drip edge didn’t get installed.

There are so many possible problems when the gutters are not installed to the right standards.

If you get a professional to come out, they can identify the issue for you or you can climb up on a ladder to see if you’re missing anything crucial.

Rotting Fascia

The fascia is the wooden board that the gutters attach to. It holds the gutters up and keeps them from falling.

So if the fascia begins to rot, it’s natural for the gutter brackets to begin to slip, causing the gutters to sag.

While dealing with a rotted fascia is not fun for anyone, it’s a necessary fix to protect your home from the elements. If you’re fascia is rotting, there is a change the gutters may not have been installed correctly in the first place which caused the issue.

To repair the fascia, the gutters will need to be taken down that section will need to be replaced.

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