Gutters are always a big fighting point between me and my sellers when it comes time to list their home. Many sellers would like to skip this maintenance issue when they list their home becasue it just seems like a waste of money to them, but it is SO important and never more so than this time of year and in Seattle!
When it is not raining or has not rained for a long time, it can be difficult to have much to say about whether the gutters leak or not.
It can become pretty obvious when it is actually raining. (Believe it or not it does not rain ALL the time in Seattle.)
When inspecting a home, inspectors will check the gutters even when it is not raining in an attempt to find evidence of "past leaking." Because gutters so often leak at corners, any signs of leaking at these areas will typically get noted in the report as showing signs of "past leaking." Also, steel gutters can actually rust through and leaks can develop almost anywhere.
As you can see in the following picture the Shadow can see a rust stain on the deck---indicative of a leak at the gutter above. In this case there is a small hole in the gutter and there is actually still water dripping out of the rusted hole. An important part of inspecting the gutters is inspecting the ground under the gutters. On a day after a long dry spell about all the inspector might see is the rust stain on the deck and rust on the gutter.
Whether these leaks are active or not during the time of the inspection is really not material because the end result is the same---repairs and/or replacement is necessary. Let the arm wrestling begin.
Stains on soffits and fascia in these areas will likewise be reported on as evidence of past leaks and---if possible---they will be checked with a moisture meter to perhaps add some clarification as to how recent the stains had been wet---or perhaps discover that they are still wet.
The connection seams of gutters do not stay sealed forever, and periodically they need to be resealed.
Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector
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