The Trouble with Gutters in Ann Arbor, MI: Inspecting Your Gutter System for Gardens & Water Damage

The Trouble with Gutters in Ann Arbor, MI: Inspecting Your Gutter System from the Ground Up

by David Bobby, Licensed Residential Builder, CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialist)

Other than the fact that most people don’t like the look of their gutters, the main problem is common gutters are designed to fail.  Here you have an open trough around the perimeter of your home that is designed to catch everything that lands on the roof.  Even if you don’t have leaves and or needles – gutters “catch” shingle granules, rain, snow and ice.

Most homeowners don’t like heights and probably don’t have a safe ladder that would enable them to look into their second story gutters.  (Speaking of ladder safety – never place the weight of a ladder against your gutters – always use a stand-off and attach to the top of an extension ladder.  In this way – your weight and that of the ladder is resting on the roof and not against the aluminum gutter – which is not designed to take that much weight.)

There are a number of things you can see with your feet solidly on the ground that can tip you off to problems above with your gutters.  Here are a few things for which to look:

  1. Gutter Gardens

Gutter Garden Atlas

When looking up at your gutters, if you see trees, shrubs, grass or any other type of green vegetation growing in your gutters – you’ve got a “gutter garden.”  This garden is no cause for celebration – instead it signals a serious problem – namely that your downspouts are blocked (with something) and your gutters have become a fertile place for things to grow in and a breeding ground for mosquitoes.  Solution is simple, though difficult.  Someone has to go up there and dig that mess out.  Warning:  it is going to stink to high heaven and be full of mold, mildew, bird droppings and other animal scat.  The downspouts need to be cleared and then the gutters hosed down with a hose to clean and clear them.

  1. Tiger Striping

Tiger Striping Atlas Captions-01

From the ground looking up at your gutters, you can often see vertical, dark lines on the face of the gutters. We call this “tiger striping.” You have a similar thing going on as in gutter gardens (above).  In this case, the downspouts are blocked and water lays in the gutter, leaching the tannins and tannic acids from leaves and pine needles.  When it rains, this mess rises to the top of the blocked gutters and overflows down the face of the gutters causing the vertical stripes.  See solution above for correction and fix.   By the way, you cannot clean these stripes off as they chemically “etch” the gutter factory paint finish. The gutters will have to be replaced (recommended) or painted (not recommended).  Tiger Striping is especially noticeable on white and lighter colored gutters.

  1. Spike & Ferrule Attachment Systems

Proud Gutter Spikes Atlas Captions-03

From the ground looking up at your gutters, if you can see the big nail heads of the spikes holding up your gutter system, you have a spike & ferrule attachment system.  Definitely old school, we see this very often and even on relatively new houses.  It is an inexpensive way to hang gutters, but can cause a lot of problems unbeknownst to most homeowners.  Warning:  be especially concerned if you see the spikes sticking out from the gutter face or even missing. This is a sure sign that the hole into which that spike was originally driven is wet, punky and maybe rotted.  Many people with this situation have a house that is rotting from the top down and they don’t even know it. The problem is that the spike and the ferrule (inside the gutter and used as a spacer) direct water back towards the house and cause the fascia board to have constant contact with water.  If you are lucky, your fascia board is not rotted but the only solution to eliminating the problems inherent with spike and ferrule attachment is a new gutter.  You cannot overcome the damage to the gutter from being pierced in two places by the spike.

Gutter Damage - Fascia Rot Atlas Captions-02

If, after your inspection, you find yourself compelled to replace your gutters, consider it a great opportunity to do the right thing for your home. Also, do your research on what to look for in a gutter company. Most homes (except for a small bungalow) really need a 6” gutter which will handles 60% more water than the regular residential 5” K-style gutter.  Even in the heaviest rainfall, your gutter will be able to handle the flow!  Plus they cover the entire 6” fascia board in most cases and make the house have a much nicer appearance from the curb.  While you are upgrading your gutters, upgrade your downspouts as well.  Ask for 3”x 4” downspouts, which are one inch longer in both length and width, but will yield twice as many square inches of output and will empty the gutters much quicker – which is a good thing.  Be sure your downspouts have at least a 3’ kicker, that is an extension that will help direct all that water away from the foundation and keep your basement or crawl space dry.

Gutters and downspouts are not elegant or exciting but are the third most important system of your home after your roof and foundation. They perform a very important task – collecting and directing water away from your home.  A little routine maintenance twice a year will save you a lot of money and aggravation.  Better yet, invest in a straight faced gutter which will render them nearly “invisible” from the street and a gutter protection system – that really works – so you “Never Have to Clean Your Gutters Again!®”


July Financing Offer*

*Financing Terms: Subject to credit approval with minimum purchase made at initial appointment. Atlas Home Improvement is neither a broker nor a lender. Financing is provided by third-party lenders unaffiliated with Atlas Home Improvement, under terms and conditions arranged directly between the customer and such lender, all subject to credit requirements and satisfactory completion of finance documents. Interest is billed during the promotional period but is waived if paid in full within the promotional period". 0% APR if Equal payments are made over 36 months. Vacation Voucher- Offer valid on projects in the bath space valued $10,000 or more, Gutters/GH, $5,000 or more, voucher delivered on purchase, install and full payment. Offers expires on 7/31/24. Consult with our design team for more details.



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*Labor Discount Terms: New orders only. Offer not valid on previous sales or estimates and cannot be combined with other offers. Expires on 7/31/24. CBL: 2102182001. . Gift Card Terms: Gift Card rewarded with purchase and when job is installed. Financing Terms: Subject to credit approval. Consult with our design team for more details.

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"WOW! Our gutters look great! Josh And Kamrin arrived right on time and got quickly to work. They were very friendly and didn't mind our 6 year old grandson asking questions. I would recommend Atlas to our friends."

– Kathy S.

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"I have been impressed with Atlas home improvement they do things the way I would. Kelly was our installer and was unbelievably hard-working very conscientious and even went the extra mile and called in a grizzly Veteran plumber when presented with a problem. We have used Atlas before and will again soon!"

– Tony M.

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"Just a quick note to thank Atlas Home Improvement for the new Gutter Helmet install we received today . From the sales representative Hunter who answered all our question about the product and the company itself to the office personnel that scheduled and kept us informed about the date and times the install crew would arrive (Brook). Kevin and Rick did a great job installing and cleaning up afterwards . Thank you Rick for calling us the morning of install just to verify that indeed you would be arriving shortly . Undoubtably one of the best companies I have dealt with . Atlas made it so very easy to keep myself Safe and my home secure from gutter water damage ."

– Harold B.

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"This was our second experience with Atlas. The shower in our last home was truly a primary selling feature. We returned to Atlas because of the quality of the job and the professionalism of the install. We were happy to see the same installers we had at our other house three years ago arrive here today. Chad and Bill did an excellent job. We received the same professionalism and quality we expected. They arrived with all the materials they would need, no hidden surprises, quality materials. They truly live up to everything they promise!"

– Rob R.

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"Chris and Brandon did a great job on my Kitchen, I love how it looks! Chris had to come back to fix some things and he fixed all of it."

– Linda B.

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"Recently, Atlas Home Improvement finished the second phase of my bathroom remodel. Matt and Chad were here every morning on time, stated in their morning phone call. They were friendly, efficient, knew their job and the job site was always in order and clean. They even went out of their way to make sure I was aware of all aspects of the job. They were GREAT!!! This is a great company!!! Very clean and considerate while putting in my new shower. Time the sales consultant was wonderful and really listened to what I want and was never pushy or tried to sell me something I didn't want. David did a wonderful job installing my shower. Great product they sell. I recommend this company highly!"

– Donna P.

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"Dave put in a stair lift for me and I was very, very pleased with the whole experience. He assessed the situation with an eye on my safety and recommended changing the side of the staircase the lift was to be installed on. He did the installation quietly and quickly and without creating any mess. And he made sure I understood how the equipment worked and watched me test ride it. I could not have been more satisfied with the whole process. I would highly recommend Atlas to any senior looking to modify their home so that they can age in place."

– Dorrie R.

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"We were experiencing temperature problems with our brand new walk-in tub, in that the temperature would not get very hot. After a call to Atlas we were scheduled by the office staff for an appointment within 2 days, which we very much appreciated. Dave arrived on time and immediately diagnosed the problem - and he quickly fixed it. Dave was very professional, pleasant, friendly, and knowledgeable. Our problem has now been fixed! Thank you Atlas for having such a great installation, office, and repair staff."

– Norv S.

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"We had our shower completely re-done by Dave. It was a custom job that involved replacing a sub floor and some plumbing issues. They were friendly, hard workers, our shower turned out perfect! I strongly recommend Atlas Home Improvement they stand by their work!"

– Sherry G.

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"Our dealings with Atlas Home Improvement have been nothing but a delight. We had booked them through Home Depot Home Services which had a salesman come out and was easy to deal with and took his time to explain all of the steps to the process. Atlas delivered the exact way they had promised we were in the loop knowing when our materials were ordered when they came in and to finally setting up the appointment. The workmanship was 5 star excellent and we could not have been happier with our new shower enclosure it really made a difference!"

– Sharron R.

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