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My Box Gutters are Leaking – What Do I Do?

Box gutters are a beautiful architectural staple of the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area. Whether you’re in Norwood, Covington, or anywhere in between, chances are you know of neighbors with box gutters or have them on your own home.

Many homes in these locations and in other areas of Cincinnati were built from 1890 to 1930, one of the most prominent time periods for the use of box gutters. The distinctive box-like shape from a profile view defines this unique form of gutter. You’ll also see the gutters actually built into the roofline of the home, rather than attached separately like most modern gutters.

Box gutters in Cincinnati from a profile view.
<sub><em>Notice how the roofline of this home overlaps with the box gutter they are constructed as one unit making box gutters extremely difficult and costly to remove<em><sub>

What does this mean for homeowners today? While box gutters are aesthetically pleasing on a home, their age and construction style means they are susceptible to failures. In this blog, we’ll cover why these failures occur, how to know your box gutters have failed, and what to do next.

[More on the architecture of box gutters from experts at The Architecture Designs.]

Why Do Box Gutters Leak?

Box gutters are constructed differently than more traditional, modern gutters. When you look inside a traditional gutter, you’ll most often see one extruded piece of aluminum connected by joints at corners of your home.

Regular gutters that are attached to the house, rather than built into the roofline like box gutters.
<sub><em>Notice how these traditional gutters are attached to the side of the roofline with bolts along each of the connection points<em><sub>

But look inside a box gutter, and it’s a different story. You’ll actually see seams every 10-15 feet where the metal of the gutter has been welded together. Because many of these gutter systems in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky are more than 100 years old, these seams are failing at an exceptionally high rate and can fail repeatedly, even after repairs.

When the seams begin to fail, water can then intrude underneath the gutter into a home’s soffit and fascia boards and begin causing those boards to rot. Because box gutters are built into a home’s roofline, this rot can happen very quickly.

An aerial view of box gutters showing the seams where box gutters often leak.
<em><sub>A look inside a box gutter that has not yet been lined Notice the seam which looks like a weld running perpendicular to the gutter toward the right of this photo<sub><em>

This damage to the seams can be exacerbated in Cincinnati’s winter months. Water in the gutter, particularly in one that is not properly sloped, can freeze, melt, and re-freeze, causing the seams to expand and allow more water intrusion in the spring.

In short, box gutters are only as good as their seams. More often than not, a leak in your box gutters means a failure at one of the gutter seams.

How Do I Know My Box Gutters are Leaking?

While box gutter damage can sometimes be hard to diagnose without an aerial view of the gutter, there are two key signs homeowners can watch for to see if their gutters are leaking.

1. Water leaking from the soffit or eave. This area lies directly underneath the box gutters on your home and is easily visible by looking upward from ground level. During rain, if you see water leaking from within this area, that water is likely coming from a failure in your box gutters.

Likewise, if you see rot or other signs of damage in this area, it could be due to water intrusion from box gutters, though other diagnoses could be possible.

The soffit underneath box gutters where water can show from a box gutter leak.
<em><sub>This area of soffit isnt showing visible signs of damage but if water is leaking from here it could be a sign your box gutters are failing<sub><em>

2. Water damage inside your home. Because box gutters are built into the rooflines of homes, when failures occur, water can actually creep inside your house. You’ll begin to see evidence of water damage on the ceiling or upper part of the wall along the side of the house where the gutter is failing.

This frequently manifests as bubbling and flaking on plaster walls, as many homes built with box gutters were also constructed with plaster walls.

Plaster damage inside a home from an external box gutter leak.
<em><sub>Plaster ceiling and wall damage due to water intrusion into the home from leaking box gutters<sub><em>

If you’re seeing these signs and believe your box gutters need repair, a great next step would be to call ProMaster Home Repair or another company to evaluate your box gutters.

At ProMaster, we do this by sending one of our Master Craftsmen to your home. Upon arrival, he’ll examine any areas of damage caused by the leak either manually or by using a company drone.

The craftsman will use the drone to not only see damage, but be able to look into the gutter itself from an aerial view and see where those seams may be failing. He can use that to then prepare an estimate for repairing your box gutters.

How Does ProMaster Home Repair Help?

Since box gutters are only as good as their seams, ProMaster provides the best possible seamless box gutter solution for your money.

ProMaster lines box gutters using a thermoplastic PVC liner that has been used for many years as a commercial roof product and even a liner for in-ground pools. [Watch as we try to pull this liner apart with two F-250 turbo diesel company trucks!]

ProMaster craftsmen installing the thermoplastic PVC liner.
<em><sub>ProMaster craftsmen beginning the box gutter lining process before the liner has been cut to fit the gutter<sub><em>

Our craftsmen place sheets of that liner into the gutter and cut it to fit your specific home’s box gutters. They then heat weld those together to form the strongest possible watertight seam to ensure those failures don’t continue.

The craftsmen then heat weld the liner to a PVC-coated aluminum drip edge, allowing it to form to the shape of the gutter and keep rainwater properly flowing to the downspout.

ProMaster craftsman heat welding the PVC liner to the PVC coated drip edge.
<em><sub>ProMaster craftsman heat welding the thermoplastic PVC liner to the PVC coated drip edge to form a watertight seal<sub><em>

The PVC liner, unlike other box gutter lining solutions, is the best long-term durable option available in the Cincinnati area for handling box gutter leaks.

While this service and material can be costly, most customers find that this solution proves to end up being less expensive than other solutions, from rebuilding the original gutter to complete box gutter removal. [Watch our Master Craftsman Adam Crowell give you the full rundown on a box gutter repair process.]

Box gutter leaks can be frustrating, but at ProMaster, we strive to minimize the headache for our customers and offer a solution that will give you peace of mind for years to come.

If you’re interested in hiring one of our Master Craftsmen to evaluate your box gutter leak or repair in the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area, you can schedule an appointment online or contact us by phoneemail, or text message.

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