Thursday, March 14, 2013

Is it OK to remove gutters from a house?

By Peter Hotton

Globe Correspondent /  March 13, 2013      

Q. We live in a one-level, ranch-style home. I can no longer go through another winter of frozen gutters, ice dams, and water finding a way into our home. I would like to remove the gutters from the house. Would this solve any or all of these problems? Are there any drawbacks to removing them? Are there other solutions not so expensive? PAUL, from Winchester
A. It is possible to take off gutters without dire results, but the presence of or lack of them does not cause ice dams. The only cause of ice dams (and their leaks) is a warm roof, although in some rare cases people who have raked their roofs free of snow claim that it stops ice dams and leaks. My house, nearly 250 years old, does not have gutters on the main part, but has heavy insulation on the attic floor, good ventilation from soffit vents, and a high-up roof vent, making a cold roof, and I have not had ice dams or leaks from ice dams in the 49 years I have lived in it.
As I said, it is possible to take off the gutters, but before you do, consider these three things: 1. The position of the gutters: If water drips too close to the front of the gutter, water will overflow, causing huge icicles. If water drips too close to the back of the gutter, water will overflow, running down the wall, under the roof overhang, and into the house. Correcting these defects can help stop the ice dams and leaks. 2. There must be an overhang of 6 inches and more, to allow dripping water to clear the house. 3. There must be a clear area on the ground free of plants and usually filled with crushed stone, for the water to drip on and be absorbed into the earth, or diverted away from the foundation by a concrete platform or apron.
Any drawbacks on removing gutters? Yes, two: 1. A two-sloped roof, like a gabled roof, will allow a lot of water to run over each edge, perhaps too much. A hip roof, like mine, has four slopes from a center peak, allowing half the water to run over each edge as the edges of a gabled roof. 2. A lot of water falling on the ground may allow it to penetrate the earth and cause basement leaks.
So, Paul, these are all considerations and caveats to think of before taking off the gutters.
Echoes from the Home Show
The New England Home Show last month at the World Trade Center had the usual spiels of everything to build with, but was a revelation to the Handyman’s four days in the show, his 47th straight. Many of the booths featured good-natured spiels, not trying to sell you anything but talk about new and interesting things to make life more fun.
One area included an entire double aisle of woodworkers who talked readily about their work and the fine furniture they produced.
It was a fun show, more like a carnival. And there, in his familiar booth was our friend Joe Cavallaro, the Bulkhead Man, with a new product called the Generator Locker. With more and longer power failures in New England, Joe figured a locker, or steel “hut” would be good to keep a home generator safe and secure.  So he built one, and sold it before the show ended, he said. 
Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton also appears in the Sunday Real Estate section. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton ( also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to end of story marker

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