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Every year I have to get on the roof and clean out debris, mostly pine needles from the gutters surrounding our roof. I didn't go up on the highest 2nd floor roof for safety reasons, so those gutters never got cleaned for years. Last winter, these gutters got so heavy from all the accumulated debris that the long gutter screws came out and I had to bring them down.

The 2nd floor roof has gutters on only one side now. The missing gutter does not seem to be exposing that side of the house to more moisture. The rain just comes down evenly over the sidewalk and garden below. In fact, the roses are blooming from the constant moisture which we formerly had to apply by hand.

Do the gutters provide any protective function or are they only there to route moisture to a particular path? Is there any risk that some of the moisture will get into the soffit and fascia and rot them over time?

  • What climate is this in? Is it subject to flash flood type rains? – wallyk Jul 11 '17 at 16:25
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You don't need gutters. However, you will want to move water away from the home, as well as reduce any damaging effects of the water dropping from the roof.

Reduce damage from water

When it rains, all the water that lands on the roof will be shed off the edge of the roof. This can be quite a bit of water, even with a small roof. If the water falls on a roof or structure below, it will cause excessive wear. If the water falls on the ground (soil, grass, concrete, etc.), it will eventually cut a line into the ground.

To mitigate this, you could install a louvered style gutter, rather than the traditional trough style gutter. This type of system allow the water and debris to fall through the gutter, but breaks up the sheet of water into smaller less damaging droplets.

The down side is, you'll be putting large amounts of water near your foundation.

Move the water away

If you're not using trough style gutters to move water away from the foundation, you're going to have to use other methods to do so. The easiest method, is to maintain a grade that slopes away from the home.

Depending on the amount of rain in your area, you might have to be a bit more aggressive than simply grading away. In these situations, a french drain (or other draining system) may be a wise choice.

So do you need trough style gutters? No. However, you do have to mitigate the damage caused by sheets of water shedding from the roof. You'll also have to move all that water away from the home. If you can achieve these things without a trough gutter system, then there's no reason to have trough gutters.

NOTE: This is not an endorsement of RainHandler products, they were simply the first brand of louvered gutter I found while doing a Google search.

  • Lack of gutters over hard surfaces allows the relatively heavy flow of water off the roof to bounce back onto the building. That can cause problems ranging from unsightly (Why is there dirt all over the lower two feet of my house?) to damaging. Shingles, and to a lesser extent clapboards, don't offer great protection against water travelling upwards. (Why are the bottom two courses of shingles over that parking lot so rotted?) – Matthew Gauthier Jul 12 '17 at 1:47
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Directing the water away from the house is the main purpose. Also with a multi level home it helps prevent the water from running off of one roof to the lower roof and wearing the lower roof faster.

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If you don't have a gutter then all the water will drop on a line near your wall. That will add erosion on that spot.

In extreme cases that can result in problems with the foundation.

Having an established bush underneath the roof edge will catch the rain and avoid the erosion problem but if it ever dies you will start getting erosion issues.

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