Gutters and downspouts are the houses way of collecting and directing all the water or melting snow that gathers on the roof…which can be a lot more than you think.  When they don’t work right they can be a source of water coming into the house at both the foundation level and the roof level.  The condition they’re in is a really good sign of how well the current owners have taken care of their house in general.


Red flags for Gutters and Downspouts


  • Gutters clogged with leaves and other debris. If gutters are clogged, water will back up under the shingles and cause ice damming and water damage to the roof deck in winter.
  • Disconnected sections of gutters or gutters not properly connect to downspouts.
  • Downspouts that empty too far from the ground or too close to the foundation without anything to catch and direct the water such as splash blocks rain barrels (rain barrels have to be emptied in the fall before the water has a change to freeze).


Soffits and Fascia


Soffits are the narrow horizontal sections under the roof eaves.  Fascia are the front (outward facing) part of the soffits and usually have gutters attached to them.  Older soffits were made of wood, while modern soffits are either aluminum or vinyl with perforations that allow for ventilation.  And that’s the key issue with soffits…do they allow air into the attic?  Even when there are other roof vents, soffit vents are critical for airflow to keep attics dry.


Red Flags for Soffits and Fascia


  • Solid wood soffits without ventilation. Older wood soffits require regular painting, and could be rotting as well.
  • Perforated aluminum soffits over old solid wood soffits. If holes haven’t been drilled in the wood to allow air to flow through, the perforated soffits are useless.  This requires careful inspection.
  • More than one layer of aluminum or vinyl. When soffits are nailed over top of each other ventilation is impossible.
  • No baffles to take the air though the insulation and into the air space of the attic. These are necessary to get soffit vents working right.  Your home inspector should be checking this out from inside the attic.


Questions to Ask:

Are there enough downspouts connected to the gutters?  Are they properly attached?  Do they extend far enough from the foundation?  What is the condition of the soffits, fascia and gutters?