What we’re going to talk about now, as when we talk about gutter maintenance, is the difference between aluminum gutters and wooden gutters.
The first category, aluminum gutters, are relatively simple to maintain—so simple that the protocol can all fit here, in a very short paragraph that begins: clean your gutters. Make sure the downspout isn’t clogged by mulch or compost, both of which bring mildew and cause aluminum gutters to sag. If you find cracks in the caulking between the seams where your gutters connect, use bead silicon to seal them. Finally, if your aluminum gutters are rusting, get the rust off, sand them down, and refinish them with a primer. Voilà.
Where a little more expertise and skill is required is with wooden gutters. As Tom has written elsewhere, “You’ll find wooden gutters on historic homes all over Boston and, in fact, it’s not uncommon for us to encounter wooden gutters ranging from seventy-five to over a hundred years old.” Wooden gutters are more aesthetically pleasing than aluminum gutters, and maintaining them isn’t complicated, per say, but many contractors lack the old-school craftsmanship that it takes to deal with them.
The number one complaint we hear about wooden gutters is this: they rot. But as Tom explains: “The truth is that when properly maintained, wood gutters never rot. All they require to last is the absence of standing water.”
The absence of standing water. Keep that in mind. Just about every good habit you’ll want to acquire to keep your wooden gutters from falling into disrepair stems from that observation. And, really, keeping them in good working order can be as easy as a, b, c:
(a) Twice a year, clean out the leaves and muck, washing out any roof granules or dirt that may have collected sludge-like at the bottom of the gutter.
(b) After cleaning, brush boiled linseed over the entire interior face of the gutter. “My grandfather used to use old engine crankcase oil,” Tom remembers. “I don’t recommend it, but it works.”
(c) Inspect the joints and end caps on your gutters and, as needed, re-tar them.
Following those ABCs will not only help ensure that your wooden gutters last, but that your home will be better protected from the more costly repairs that can result from interior water damage. Unfortunately, if routine maintenance hasn’t been performed on wooden gutters, you may find yourself in need of real repairs. This is the time to either break out your exceptional DIY skills or to call in an expert—and we mean an expert. Most local handymen won’t be equipped for the repair of wooden gutters, which calls on carpentry skills not dissimilar to those used in boat building. If you have any questions about properly maintaining or repairing your wooden gutters, don’t hesitate to call: we’re always happy to help.