Steven L. Smith, Bellingham, WA Home Inspector (King of the House)


Integral Gutters, Yankee Gutters

Integral gutters go by different names. Yankee gutters is probably the best known of the terms, although in my area I also hear them called Dutch gutters.

The photo below gives a good example of what they look like. 

Unfortunately, this photo also shows a common problem with them -- all clogged. These gutters, often nothing more than a curl in the eave with tar paper as a membrane, can be real problems. At some installations, the gutter is right above the wall of the home -- not out at the edge like with a normal gutter. When they get full, or leak for any other reason, that leads to water going down into the soffit, the wall or adjacent structure. The photo below is structural damage caused by rot around an overflowing integral gutter, same property shown above.

 I would like to say that this is uncommon. Problem is, I almost always find damage, in varying degrees, when I find integral gutters. They might be fine in areas with light rain but they sure are not ideal in the Pacific NorthWET. A common repair, that makes sense, is to modify the roof and put in standard gutters that still require cleaning, but they keep leakage and water farther away from key parts of the home.


Steven L. Smith

Bellingham WA Home Inspections

Steven L. Smith

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Comment balloon 11 commentsSteven L. Smith • August 28 2008 09:01AM


Steve, I SO agree with you on this.  Integral gutters are, sooner or later, like putting little swimming pools or bird baths on your roof and are very difficult to maintain and keep from damaging the roof structure.  They are almost always lined with materials that don't last as long as the roofing materials that laps over them.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 12 years ago

hhhmmm, most houses down here don't have gutters.

Sean Allen

Posted by Sean Allen, International Financing Solutions (International Financing Solutions ) almost 12 years ago

Wow, the damage in that photo is scary.  I love having home inspectors on AR!

Lynda K. Bloom, Selling Rockville Maryland Real Estate and Surrounding Areas

Posted by Lynda Bloom (Weichert, Realtors) almost 12 years ago

Wood and water just do not mix well! Looks pretty for the first year, then it becomes a nightmare!

Posted by Robert Rauf (HomeBridge Financial Services (NJ)) almost 12 years ago

Plus the weight of the water is something to think about.  What a silly design.  They need a screen on top, at the very least.

Posted by Randall Schrader (Competitive Insurance of Dundee) almost 12 years ago

Integral gutters are a silly design. They are probably worse than zero gutters, which is not great in a wert area either.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) almost 12 years ago

Never heard of those gutters here but your pictures show them nicely.  We'll just let you keep them.

Posted by Barbara S. Duncan, GRI, e-PRO, Executive Broker, Searcy AR (RE/MAX Advantage) almost 12 years ago


What if I don't want them?

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) almost 12 years ago

The coolest gutters I ever saw were the wood gutters at the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. Of course, everything else about the house was a home inspector's nightmare: stairs to nowhere, windows in the floor, etc. Well worth a trip to San Jose just to spend the day at the WMH.

Posted by Not a real person almost 12 years ago

It is time to replace our roof on our Dutch Colonial house built in the 20's. On the top section of the roof are built-in gutters. How do we replace them without hurting the character and integrity of the house and roof?

Posted by Linda A. Hawthorne almost 3 years ago

Linda, usually they cut them off and put on real gutters. It is not necessarily cheap to do. But if you want to keep it as is, I would make sure the integral gutter areas are covered with one of the new vinyl or TPO membranes that are much better than typical tar paper that I see.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) almost 3 years ago