When Gutters Overflow: The Causes & How To Best Fix Them

Gutters play an important role in channeling rainwater away from your house toward the downspouts to prevent water damage to your home’s foundation, walls, and the interior. But if something prevents gutters from working correctly, the water will simply spill over the sides of your gutters, creating a whole list of problems, including:

  • Damaged or discolored siding
  • Eroded or destroyed landscaping
  • Rotted fascia boards on the eaves
  • Cracked sidewalks or pavement (sometimes ice patches if temperatures later drop below freezing point)
  • Flooded basements
  • Cracked, buckled, or shifted foundations
  • Leaks in joints and windows

3 Main Causes of Gutter Overflow

It’s easy to overlook gutters throughout the year, but when storms hit, it becomes impossible to ignore them. But what really causes gutters to overflow? Here are the three common root causes of gutter clogging and overflow.

1. Debris Clogging Up 

The first culprit for gutter overflow is clogging. Gutters can be clogged with leaves or other debris; maybe a ball or other toys have been caught in the gutter. Shingle granules, plastic bags, or sticks from broken tree limbs can also clog gutters. If the gutter isn’t cleaned regularly, leaves and debris can fill up the gutters and cause clogs. We recommend cleaning gutters at least twice a year — in spring and fall. 

2. Your Gutters are Incorrectly Positioned 

Another reason gutters could leak is if they are pitched incorrectly. When gutters are level, they pitch towards the outlet: the downspouts (like how your shower is pitched toward the drain!). This is mostly caused by improper installation, but can also happen over time as your gutters channel heavy downpours. As gutters sag or pull away from the house, the pitch changes. Then they fill with water and pull away from the house more. A too steep pitch can similarly cause overflow while lack of pitch may cause the rainwater to gather in one spot, instead of flowing toward the exit.

3. Gutters Hanging too Low

The gutters may also hang too low or without a proper gap between the house and the gutter system, causing the water runoff to overshoot your gutters. Sometimes, the gutters may be too small to handle the amount of rainwater coming off the roof. In such a case, you may need larger gutters installed on your home.

How to Stop Gutter Overflow

After identifying the reason behind the excess rainwater, the next step is to mitigate the overflow problem so rainwater can properly flow and distribute. Sometimes the solution is as simple as cleaning the gutters; but other times, you may need leaf protectors installed.

We do not recommend you cleaning the gutters during a storm. Climbing up the roof or standing on a ladder to clean gutters during in the rain is dangerous. Be sure to wait until the rain has subsided and the roof has dried up. It’s always a good idea to call a professional roofer to take care of your overflowing gutters (safety first).

That said, here are some ways you can mitigate gutter overflow or prevent such problems from reoccurring in the future.

  • Blow off leaves and debris – If the gutters are filled with debris (moss, leaves, etc), use a nozzle attachment for your leaf blower and blow off the debris with forced air. You could also use a power hose to clear the leaves and dirt. It helps to clean the caked-up debris on the inside and outside of your gutters.
  • Pick out the dirt by hand – You can grab a ladder, a bucket, and hand gloves and go the old-fashioned route of handpicking the debris. Finish off by washing the gutter system and downspout using a garden hose.
  • Install mesh and splash guards – If your roof is steeply pitched, the water may be running so fast that it splashes over the gutters. You can mitigate this by installing an L-shaped splash guard to prevent water overrun during storms. Additionally, you could install mesh screens on top of your gutters to catch leaves and other debris from getting inside your gutters. This way, only rainwater will get through, making them much easier to clean.

Ultimately, you should schedule gutter cleaning at least twice every year. Semi-annual thorough cleanings usually cover the bases for gutter maintenance. Gutter maintenance does not only keep your gutter tip-top but also helps you keep a watchful eye for any signs of deterioration. If you can catch the problems early, you’ll save yourself the headache of executing costly repairs and replacement in the future. However, if your gutters are found to be extensively damaged or worn out, it could be time for gutter replacement. As always, feel free to reach out to Midwest Roofing from Columbia to Springfield areas for all your gutter and roofing needs. Our fully licensed and insured gutter professionals are highly trained and experienced to offer full gutter replacements, gutter guard installation, gutter repair and maintenance, and gutter cleaning. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation estimate.