Built-in Gutters offer a beautiful look to any home and were the choice of most architects for building in the early 1900's. Although still incorporated into new construction and alterations, the cost to install and the availability of newer products make them unpractical. It's important to remember that Built-in Gutters are functional first and decorative second. All types of Gutters including Built-ins should be inspected and properly maintained on a regular basis. Usually once or twice a year is sufficient.
Small leaks can turn into major repairs at a huge expense if left unchecked. Water leaking through cracked seams or corroded metal can rot the wood structure compromising its integrity and ultimately leading to its failure. Once a Built-in Gutter starts to sag and the water can no longer reach the downspouts the problems start to compound. This can include water damage on interior walls, eroded foundations, and flooded or damp basements.
When areas that are not meant to get wet stay damp on a constant basis, mold will start to grow creating an unhealthy environment.
There is no one "fix all" for leaking Built-in Gutters. When originally installed, Built-in Gutters were lined with metal using mostly copper and tin. Over the life span of the home when leaks developed they were repaired with a wide variety of products. Some good and some ridiculously bad, installed by individuals that were completely clueless as what they were doing. Using the right product and correct approach for a specific problem, as well as using a highly qualified individual is critical in achieving long term solutions.
In the unfortunate event that the Built-in Gutters have reached a point where they are beyond repair, there a few options. They can be completely rebuilt, which is a challenge within itself considering true craftsmen are becoming harder and harder to find. They can be covered over with plywood and roof shingles extending the existing roof, which brings the water to the edge. This is only recommended if the structural integrity of the existing Gutter is still sound. If the Built-in Gutter has already sagged, the new plywood will follow the same path leaving an unsightly dip in the roof line. This method also leaves no fascia board to attach a new Gutter to and it must be hung from the roof. The last option is to modify the exterior of the house to appear as if it never had Built-in Gutters. We do not recommended removing a Built-in Gutter without installing a new overhang. This not only makes the house look ugly but it takes away the protection an overhang offers. A simple clog in a Gutter without having the benefit of an overhang allows water to run directly down the house causing a whole host of problems especially around windows.
Remember that solving water problems is what we do for a living so please feel free to call us with any questions.