As fall deepens, Brady Chuckel is looking up: at the eaves poised to cause big headaches for homeowners. “Clearing clogged eaves and downspouts is an essential maintenance task,” says this president of Paul Davis of Southeast Wisconsin. “Neglected eave problems pile up quietly so it’s easy to put off cleaning these hard to reach areas. Then suddenly you can’t ignore big trouble.”

Home damage caused by eaves can range from slow and hard to uncover all the way to abrupt and catastrophic. Let’s tour a house from roofline to foundation to see typical problems caused by unattended eaves.

We begin atop the roof of the dwelling. We see shingles coated in algae and moss. Their lower edges appear to be crumbling. Why? When water doesn’t drain quickly off the shingles, the roofing materials don’t dry completely. Shingles are manufactured to shed water effectively, not to endure long intervals of wetness that can cause material degradation.

In the choked eaves themselves, we hear scuffling noises. A squirrel pops up, an acorn in its mouth. Gutters packed with debris – tree seeds, acorns, leaves, bark – attract nuisance animals like rodents or insects that either use the debris to eat or make nests, or actually live in the debris itself during dry spells. Birds are particularly fond of spring nest-building in full gutters. Full eaves also bring animals closer to attic entry points and the warm, cozy insulation inside.

Peeking below the eaves, we see stained siding. Why? When eaves are clogged, water spills over them and pours down the house’s exterior cladding. Overflows like this, if not corrected in a timely manner, often lead to wood rot beneath the siding. If the overflow occurs near windows, their frames are at high risk for rot, too.

Near the foundation of the home, we see cracks in the concrete and areas where the foundation is more exposed. Why? Overflowing eaves lead to water pooling against the home and accelerating erosion. This process weakens the foundation’s support, leading to cracking and settling.

When we reach the basement, we smell mould and see standing water in the corner. The drywall in this area is damp and shows water stains. Why? When water is not properly managed and channeled away from the foundation with properly maintained eaves and downspouts, it is far more likely to find entry into the home.  

Last, we step outside and see a deep trench in the dirt directly underneath the clogged eaves. This spot is where water hit the ground forcefully during a rain event, picked up soil and carried it to a new location. 

“Clogged eaves cause so many problems. It’s best to hire a competent, insured professional to clean them regularly, particularly if you have trees near your home,” Chuckel summarizes. “And please, don’t clean them yourself. Hundreds of thousands of people hurt themselves every year by falling off ladders.”