2 or 3 story homes are sometimes built with a design flaw…. That’s when your Upper Level gutters (the gutters highest on your home) empty out onto your Lower Level roof only to be recollected by the Lower Level gutters. When this happens, it can cause an assortment of damages to your home. We always suggest connecting the Upper Level gutters into the Lower Level gutters using downspout extensions for many reasons.
The most important reason to connect the gutters with downspout extensions, is water damage to the roof. When all the water from the Upper roof gets collected in the gutters and comes down the downspout, it has built up a little speed and force. That water washes away shingle grit and eventually damages shingles to the point that they will curl up. Once this happens, the shingles become ineffective and your roof is now vulnerable to rot, leaks, mold, moss growth, etc…
Excessive water pouring onto the roof will cut the life of your roof in half or maybe more. For example, a 30 year roof is going to be lucky to last 15 years under these conditions. Check out these example photos below of shingle damage caused by downspout run off.
The second most important reason, is efficiency and performance. You always want your gutter system to perform as efficiently as possible. When rain lands on your Upper Level roof, it runs down to the gutters where it is collected and channeled to where it needs to go. If that Upper Level downspout empties out onto another Lower Level roof, then the water that was already collected is released only to be recollected again. The idea here is to keep the water as contained and controlled as possible.
Take a look at the above photo. Notice the downspout is positioned near the edge of that lower roof? That is a serious design flaw. Water from rain generally runs straight down the roof, so it almost never runs over the edge like in this picture. The reason it is going over the edge is because it has built up speed coming down the downspout.
In some cases you could attach a splash guard to the gutters, so that the water can’t go over. But not along the roof slope like this. There is nothing to mount the splash guard to, as the shingles hang over the edge a few inches.
The only solution here, is to extend that downspout so that it connects into the Lower Level gutter. This will prevent the water from going over the edge and washing away your foundation. When water goes over the edge, like the above picture, it not only washes away your foundation (which causes basement leaks), but it also runs down the walls.
Water running down your exterior walls can cause a whole slew of it’s own problems. Most importantly it can cause discoloration, mold, wood rot, leaks in the home, etc. Water that has come off of your roof is extremely dirty from the shingles and will stain anything it touches over time. The cost of extending the downspout is going to be much much cheaper than any of those repairs.
Whenever you have an Upper Level roof draining onto the Lower Level roof, that Lower gutter now has to do double the work. It has to catch all the fresh rain that lands on the Lower Level roof, as well as handle all the water flow from the Upper Level roof. This sometimes will cause splashing over the gutters. Especially at the bottom of roof valleys (the seam where 2 roof sections meet)
Installing splash guards in your problem areas is one way around this. They are basically a cut of gutter material that is attached to the gutter, kind of like a back board. When water tries to protrude over the gutter, it hits the splash guard and flows into the gutter system. Some home owners think the splash guards are more “unsightly” than the downspout extensions, so they tend to not want to use them.
There really isn’t many reasons not to connect the gutters using downspout extensions. Some home owners will complain that it doesn’t look as “aesthetically pleasing”, or that it might be an “eye sore.”
Keep in mind that to connect with downspout extensions, you will need to run a section of downspout across your roof. This may not look as pleasing to some that are concerned with the presentation of their home.
You can save yourself a whole bunch of money (thousands) by installing downspout extensions that connect your gutters. Water damage is the worse kind of damage to your home there is, and the most expensive to repair. Downspout extensions are relatively cheap compared to any other solutions.
Splash guards can be installed to prevent splashing over the gutters. However, that doesn’t do anything to prevent the shingles or roof from water damage.
Besides the look, there really isn’t any reason why you wouldn’t want to connect your Upper Level and Lower Level gutters using downspout extensions.
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