How One Bathroom Houses Can Be Hazardous to Your Gutter

By May 16, 2016Rainware

A home’s exterior can come into contact with many harsh environments and extreme weather conditions.

Naturally, as a manufacturer of building products, we’re always interested in the most extreme conditions that a product can be exposed to – especially conditions that bring products to their breaking point.

Recently a customer in Wisconsin reached out to us for assistance with a mysterious gutter failure. Jim McGuigan at Energy Masters had installed a new Quality Edge rainware system for an elderly homeowner, who was initially pleased with the result. However, she reported that within a year, the gutter began to pit, corrode, and leak. In fact, it had gotten to the point that the gutter no longer held water at all, and would drip on the homeowner’s head when she went in and out. The problem didn’t affect the entire gutter – just one particular section from part way down the gutter to the end – which only made diagnosis more complicated.

Since this was an unusual problem, Jim contacted us to see what might cause such a failure. Could corrosion in gutters occur if the homeowner threw salt into their gutters in an attempt to melt snow and ice accumulations on the roof? It seemed unlikely that the homeowner would be able to get the pellets onto the roof. Or could it be from acidic conditions, like a cedar tree overhanging the roof? Again, it seemed unlikely, because cedar exposure normally isn’t that harmful to most aluminum products.

In the end, first-hand observation solved the case. When the installer went to replace the gutter, he noted that the gutter was wet, even though it hadn’t rained in days. In fact, the short piece of roof leading down to the gutter was also wet. And as he began to remove the gutter, an overwhelming odor made the cause of the dampness suddenly clear: the roof was soaked in urine.

Once that detail had been worked out, the rest of the story came to light. The elderly homeowner had an adult son who lived upstairs, and the home had only one bathroom – downstairs. The son was in the habit of urinating right out the upstairs front window. None of the neighbors had ever mentioned it!
Thanks to the clever sleuthing and strong stomachs of the crew at Energy Masters, this mystery has been solved. We now have evidence that prolonged exposure to urine is damaging to gutters, as well as shingles and roofing materials. Whenever a customer has a gutter problem that’s weird, perplexing, or even a little disgusting, we’re eager to help.