Reuben's Home Inspection Blog


Gutters can also prevent your walls from rotting

While everyone thinks about gutters being one of the most important aspects of maintaining a dry basement, gutters can also play a major role in preventing water intrusion at the exterior of the home.

As water drains off the roof and hits hard surfaces next to the house, such as decks and patios, a lot of water splashes against the house in an unnatural manner.  Houses are designed to shed water from the top down.  When water travels up against a house or sideways, it can have a devastating effect.

One of the worst areas that I regularly find problems with is where a roof valley dumps water on to a deck, and the water splashes against a patio door.  This will almost always rot the door and  the wall around it.  When gutters are installed and maintained, this doesn't happen.

My inspiration for this post came while doing a home inspection in Eden Prairie on a nineteen year old house.  The home didn't have any gutters, and water drained down from the roof right on to the wood deck.  I noticed some tiny trees growing out of the intersection between the deck and the house, so I suspected there was a nasty mess behind the siding.  Click on the photo below for a larger version.

Tiny trees growing at deck

I told the buyer to have the wall opened up by a carpenter before proceeding with his purchase, so he could get an idea of the scope of the damage.  The buyer met the carpenter at the house, and was kind enough to send me a few photos of the wall with the siding removed.

Water damage at wall

Rotted wall sheathing

Rotted studs

That wall sheathing is severely deteriorated, and a few of the studs were actually mushy.  I'm certain that gutters would have prevented this entire mess.  This is just one more reason to install gutters.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections


Comment balloon 33 commentsReuben Saltzman • September 13 2011 06:03AM


Reuben: Another great example on why gutters that are properly installed, maintained and regularly cleaned are imperative. Your photos are very instructive. Who knew rain could fall up?

Posted by Anne M. Costello (Weidel Realtors) over 7 years ago

Nasty did the sale go through?

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) over 7 years ago

I have gutters at properties under my management cleaned yearly - sometimes twice depending on the tree covering. 

Posted by Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, LandlordWhisperer (Gibson Management Group, Ltd.) over 7 years ago

Anne - thanks.  Yeah, when rain goes up, it's bad news for the house.

James - yes, the seller was completely unaware of the issue, so they had it repaired by a contractor, and as far as I know, the sale has already gone through, or will be going through soon.

Wallace - have you ever had any luck with gutter shields?

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

Wow, looks quite nasty.... I hope the transaction was able to move forward...

Posted by Scott Fogleman, New Home Team (New Home Team 804-573-9592) over 7 years ago

Reuben-Thanks for the detailed description of the behind the wall tour. Water intrusion can be a big problem if not detected and prevented. Thanks.

Posted by Adrian Willanger, Profit from my two decades of experience (206 909-7536 over 7 years ago

Thanks Reuben. Informative post.

Posted by Robert Rucker III over 7 years ago

Scott - as far as I know, this was just a little hiccup for the transaction.  The sellers had the wall professionally repaired.

Adrian - absolutely.  I'm glad this is something the buyer was able to have dealt with before buying the house.

Robert - thanks for reading. 

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

Hi Reuben.   Thanks for the info.  People sometimes ask the gutter question as most homes in the area have them, but many do not.

Posted by Carol-Ann Palmieri, "Cal" the Real Estate Gal (RE/MAX Executive Realty, Al and Cal Realty Group) over 7 years ago


Posted to Facebook!


Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage Mobile - 916-765-5366) over 7 years ago

Good catch Reuben. Things growing in unusual places should be a red flag for home owners.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) over 7 years ago


Great call on that one. I see many homes without gutter here. And like you said there can be many ramification because of this practice. 

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

If you hadn't taken the siding off there wouldn't have been any rot.

Actually, to be serious, what was your hint that the siding should come off?  It looked in good shape.  And if you tell me your hint was inspection experience, I would not only buy that, but say yeah!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Al / Carol - It's a lot better when they do :)

Tom - thanks!

Robert - that's pretty close to what my alternative post title was going to be :)

Donald - absolutely.  Gutters solve a lot of problems.

Jay - I never thought of it that way.  Great point!

The saplings were really the big tipoff.  I poked around with my awl, and the siding was quite mushy right at the deck level.  That's what made me get a little more agressive with my recommendation.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

Reuben, I have seen more homes, OK, all older homes, without gutters of late... I recommend them to my clients.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 7 years ago

Funny.  I've found that the older the house, the more likely it is that it will have gutters.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

Reuben-  Is it possible water was entering from roof-to-wall intersection?  Lack of kick-out/diverter flashing?

Posted by Joshua Frederick, Home Inspector in Defiance & all of Northwest Ohio (Home Inspector for ASPEC Residential Services, LLC) over 7 years ago

I had buyers look at a home without gutters just yesterday.  One of the things on their to do list if they make an offer is to put them up.  Of course, around here, sometimes people have issues with ice dams & remove the gutters thinking it will solve their problem.  It just causes other kinds of issues.

Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - over 7 years ago

Oh that pesky splashback, so true.  And gutters in our area can complicate things on the North Side especially, always something.

Posted by Brin Realty Associates Team At Bean Group, Amherst NH homes and Southern NH real estate (Bean Group | Brin Realty Associates) over 7 years ago

Joshua - I've seen that happen plenty of times, but that wasn't the case here; this was definitely caused by water splashing back against the house.

Christine - you're completely right.  Gutters have very little to do with ice dams.

Rene - yes, that splashback will definitely cause problems with the house. 

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

Wow! That is not what I had in mind on where to grow a plant. Great post and picture helps to see the reality of the effect.

Posted by Mike Yeo (3:16 team REALTY) over 7 years ago

Hi Reuben. Nice catch! Nice that the owners were cooperative as well!
As important as having gutters is cleaning them so the water can actually use them. With fall coming it's no easy task at times.

Posted by Bruce Kunz, REALTOR®, Brick & Howell NJ Homes for Sale (C21 Solid Gold Realty, Brick, NJ, 732-920-2100) over 7 years ago

Not only do gutters help keep homes from having water problems but new gutters add to the curb appeal. thanks for the great post.


Posted by Nick Smith, Boise Idaho Real Estate, We Love Boise (Silvercreek Realty Group) over 7 years ago

Another Great Post!   I must start cleaning my gutters more often.  Pretty scary pictures.

Posted by Stephanie Stringer, Mortgage Loan Originator (First Choice Loan Services NMLS#210764) over 7 years ago

Reuben - That is a lot of damage to that home.  I'm sure the potential buyer was happy with your recommendations.

Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) over 7 years ago

Great post.   This is such a common occurence. Homeowners just don't realize how important good gutters are!

Posted by Donald Reich (Prudential Centennial) over 7 years ago

Mike - no, not my preference either... but it seems to be giving those trees plenty of water :)

Bruce - definitely.  Clogged gutters are pretty worthless.

Nick - that's another point that I never even thought of.

Stephanie - I don't blame you for not wanting to clean your gutters.  That gunk that sits in them can get pretty nasty.

Christine - yes, he definitely was.

Donald - no, and unfortunately, most builders are completely omitting gutters in my area.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

Thanks Rueben, great information and especially pertinent to those of us down here in wet Florida.  Important to have gutters, keep them clean and properly functional.

Posted by Gabe Sanders, Stuart Florida Real Estate (Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales) over 7 years ago

Ih Reuben, I didn't know that gutters could prevent that much damage. It is well worth the investment.

Posted by Sandy Acevedo, RE/MAX Masters, Inland Empire Homes for Sale (951-290-8588) over 7 years ago

Gabe - you got it.

Sandy - absolutely.  Now I just need to get them installed on my own house...

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

Reuben, What a  great post and with super illustrations.  More of our homes in this area need to have gutters installed.. especialy since we average about 50 inches of rain a year.  This year, it would not have mattered though.

Posted by 1~Judi Barrett, BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK (Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745) over 7 years ago

Lots of important information - and it is important to keep the moisture under control.  Wow, what a mess!

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) over 7 years ago

Judi - I just don't understand people's hesitation to install them.  I was at a huge house on Thursday, and a contractor was out talking about excavating the soils all around the house and dampproofing the walls because of the basement water problems... but the house didn't have any gutters!  Start with the easy stuff... duh.

Joan - yeah, I was glad to get those photos :) 

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago