Chicago expert discusses gutter repair and replacement
Headshot of Kazimierz
Kazimierz "Casey" Swistun owner,
An engineer by training, Kazimierz "Casey" Swistun began his career in his native Poland supervising maintenance issues in a frozen-food plant. He arrived in the U.S. in 1984 at the age of 32, and initially found work on a siding crew.
"I noticed very early that the siding and home-repair business did not have a very good reputation, so I realized this was something I could improve," Swistun says. Founding Swistun Inc. in 1985, he has specialized in gutter and siding installation, and repair.
What are the most common problems that you see?
"There are many kinds of problems just involving the gutters. They can be leaking. They can be loose. The downspouts aren't large enough or are in the wrong places, or are directing the water to the wrong places.
"Very often, the gutters are just part of the issue. It can get very complicated in the winter. You need to make sure that you have good insulation and ventilation under your roofing to minimize heat sources that will melt the snow and ice on your roof from underneath.
"If it starts melting from underneath, the water drains down to the gutter. The water can refreeze, causing icicles and clogging, which can then back up the water into the home. During the summer, the typical problem is overflowing water, which can back up into the home."
Should you have gutters inspected regularly?
"Definitely, to make sure they are not clogged. It's very important to clean them regularly, at least once a year or twice a year, depending on the kind of trees you have and how close they are to the gutters.
"Even more important is to make sure the downspouts are clean. Often, you only have partial drainage."
When should you replace your gutters?
"If you have old galvanized steel gutters, you need to replace them if they are rusted through - or sooner. The first indication is points of rust on the bottom of the gutter. The points grow to bigger rust spots and then eventually a hole.
"Aluminum gutters generally do not rust. When they are done properly, they can last a very long time, not limited to 20 or 30 or 40 years.
"Obvious signs that gutters or downspouts might need to be replaced include splits in the metal or sagging. Very often, people think they have a gutter problem and look for signs to replace them, but it may be related to the roofing as well.
"The best way to protect a house is to replace the gutters and roof at the same time. This way, for example, you could add a roofing intake ventilation system behind the gutter, or an ice barrier between the gutter and the edge of the roof.
"Just replacing the gutters doesn't make much sense unless they are very damaged or malfunctioning. Wait until you replace your roof, if you can."