Owning a Home with Built In Gutters

To many homebuyers choosing between aluminum gutters and Built in Gutters (may be called hidden, concealed, rubber or membrane gutters) may seem like such a small concern when faced with a multitude of other items to consider when deciding on a purchase. After all, they are just gutters. Built in Gutters are an upgrade from those rather pedestrian looking aluminum type. Therefore they must be better, right?

Fast forward to the homeowner now dealing with this scourge known as Built in Gutters. Most often you will find that they have spent more time and money on repeated calls to their local roofer than they want to admit, hoping this time the leaks will stop. Most eventually become reticent to tolerate the leaks and the rotten fascia boards that will no longer accept paint. It gets worse if the water finds its way inside a wall and goes unnoticed for a period of time.

So why is it that this seemingly unimportant, high end feature, is able to cause such havoc. Why is this problem so difficult to repair? It’s just gutters, right?

The dirty secret is this – it’s not the hidden gutters that are the problem, it’s the money saved when the gutter membranes are installed.

Built in gutters as a design feature are very functional, very robust and very beautiful. The problem is that when the membrane is installed properly they cost about double that of aluminum gutters. Given this dilemma, the majority of home builders having gained the benefit of “including” Built in Gutters in the project, now face the temptation to supply them for the lowest cost possible. This combined with a lack of knowledge on the part of the builder leads them to hire roofers who install the membranes using methods that have no resemblance to the manufacturer’s installation criteria. Worse still, the membrane is often so poorly installed that it is often unrepairable and cannot typically, in the case of a cedar shake, metal or concrete tile roof system be replaced without complete replacement of the entire roofing assembly. Thus the builder having saved a few thousand dollars during construction leaves the new owner with damages and repair bills that can easily exceed tens of thousands of dollars.

Buyer beware, whether buying a house, condo or strata unit, or just re-roofing, remember that they may just be gutters, but they keep the water from damaging your home.