Apartment Managers: Are Clogged Gutters and Drains Costing You Money?


Image of dried leaves in a gutterThe return of normal or improved rainfall in some areas of the country means that trees will shed more leaves this autumn and gutters and drains on apartment buildings stand a greater chance of clogging. That means property management and maintenance teams may want to step up their cleaning efforts to maintain gutters and drains throughout the season.

Fall and spring are the times of year that property managers should think about cleaning gutters or consider installation of any number of guards to prevent leaves, acorns, and sticks from gathering and preventing adequate water flow during rainfall, says Tony Giacalone, director of property management for Maryland-based RCS Construction Services, LLC.

RCS has worked with multifamily properties the past 15 years to ensure that gutters do their job – collect and direct rain water from the roof to a designated area. Giacalone says apartment properties should clean gutters at least two times per year, and up to four times during high foliage seasons.

Prevent Expensive Property Damage to Units

An apartment building gutter that doesn’t drain right can cause damage that can run into the thousands of dollars.

“The initial benefit of gutters is so that rain water doesn’t wash out the earth along your building,” he says. “If you have two- or three-story building and you don’t have gutters, you’ll have a straight line in the mulch bed or landscape, even sidewalk, where the rain falls off the roof. That definitely affects the earth around the building as well as landscaping.”

Improper drainage can cause foundation damage as well. And clogged gutters can be a perfect nesting environment for wildlife like birds, squirrels, and bats that can ultimately damage the side of a building and guttering.

Giacalone said that overflowing gutters are a leading cause of water seepage into the interior of an apartment building. Improper maintenance during cold weather can be especially damaging.

“The harsh winter climate can cause tremendous damage to your gutter system and property,” he said. “When debris builds up in your gutter system, water cannot be quickly redirected or drained out.”

Upon freezing, additional precipitation can overflow and create snow buildup or ice dams that can damage the roof and gutter system. Traditional gutter hangers are not designed to support the weight of a solid frozen gutter. Gutters will become loose and cause damage to wood trim and fascia.

Gutter Guards Help Reduce Expensive Cleanings

Cleanings can be reduced by installing any one of a variety of gutter guards that fit over the top of the gutter and prevent debris from falling into the drainage system. Even then, gutter guards need to be maintained so that debris doesn’t collect on top and cause gutters to overflow.

“It’s a not a one-time fix,” he said. “With gutter guards, the rule of thumb is that they will keep about 80 percent of the debris out of your gutter. We have contracts with customers who don’t have gutter guards and we do gutter cleanings up to four times per year. For our customers with gutter guards, maybe we do it once per year.”

In some instances, gutter guards can be cleaned off with a leaf blower.

Cleaning Apartment Gutters is a Balancing Act

Giacalone says the true cost of gutter maintenance extends far beyond that of routine yearly cleanings. One major factor is the risk of injury or damage associated with each cleaning or maintenance event.

A Florida native, Giacalone has been scaling roofs for several years cleaning gutters. He recommends that only experienced technicians or staff attempt to service gutters, especially on apartment buildings larger than a single story.

“I’m on roofs all the time,” he said. “My son asks me how I do it. It’s a balancing act.”

It’s one act that apartment property managers should follow this time of year, whether contracting with a service provider or through the maintenance team.

How is your property balancing gutter maintenance? Is it part of your regularly or seasonally scheduled property maintenance routines?



Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

One response to “Apartment Managers: Are Clogged Gutters and Drains Costing You Money?”

  1. Bill Leys says:

    Apartment decks enclosed with pony walls on all four sides should inspect and clean deck drains and scuppers.

    I’ve seen cases where leaves/debris clogs the drain, and water fills the deck and ends up leaking into the apartment over the sliding door threshold.

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