10/2/2003
I finally got it done. After $200 of shop wet/dry vacuuming the basement and a few days of missed work in repairing and/or preventing water damage from Nature's life-giving precipitation, I finally can rest easy.

Let me start from the start.

Two years ago, the house into which I moved (about a year prior to my marrying my wife) had its roof re-shingled. Marvelous! I don't need to worry about that for another few years, I thought. Well, I was partly right. I don't need to worry about the shingles for a while, but the worry it brought was sufficient to satisfy every man's need for a reason for home improvement. I think. Jury's still out.

I digress.

Since then, or so it would seem, rain nicely flowed down the beautiful new shingles, to the drip edge, and merrily traced the drip edge and dropped from the back of the drip edge, onto the flower beds, and into the basement window wells. (See diagram 2.) Naturally, flooding was the result.

I talked to a couple of guys who knew about home improvement and/or construction, and they both told me something different. I went with the one that fit best with my assumptions...which I based solely on my vast amount of home improvement knowledge. Vast when compared to my knowledge of bio-physics. The idea was this: hey, if the water is going behind the gutter, move the gutter closer to the roof! So, like the professional that I am, I went to the nearest hardware stored, spent a few dollars on drill bits, screws and 3/4" washers. (Drill bits so I could drill some pilot holes for the screws so I didn't crack the vinyl gutters, and to make things easier for my cordless drill. Washers so the screw-heads didn't punch right through the gutters.) A few broken drill bits later (drilling at an angle makes for some seriously inappropriate torque for the drill bits!) I had put in about 6 screws and washers. I'd decreased the amount of space between gutter and roof to nothing...in about 12 places! (There were nails between gutter and roof in what appeared to be previous attempts at the same thing.)

For the record, it did seem strange to me that the brackets upon which the gutters hung held the gutters almost 1/4" or more away from the roof.... I found out later, that that's how it's supposed to be. But again, I digress.

Well, this was all part of a rushed effort to winterize my home just before the incoming snow and rain storm was supposed to blow in, so I thought that while I was up on the roof, I might as well drain the swamp cooler of its nasty, salt-ridden water. And, hey, it'd be a great test of my newly modified gutters, since the small section I had completed was just below the cooler.

I took out the pump (not wanting to have this one die of exposure like the other 2 previous pumps) and used its hose to siphon the water out. (By the way, there was no way I was getting my lips anywhere near that nasty hose, so I just filled it up with water, kept my thumbs over both ends of it, put one end in the water and the other down the roof, and let go my thumbs. The laws of physics did their thing, and the water flowed like...well..like water being siphoned from a swamp cooler.) The water trickled merrily down the shingles...and into the gutter! Woohoo! Then the trickle slowed. I could hear the gut wrenching slap of water far below on the flower bed...just in front of the window well. Clearly I'd failed.

So, I hit up another couple sources of information. One source suggested I put some flashing between shingle and drip edge to extend the drip edge just a little. (To my embarrassment I had to ask what flashing was. Just so you know...assuming you don't already...it's thin sheet metal, usually used to cover joints and stuff on the roof. Most commonly seen stuck together with some type of tarry caulk around your chimney.) The other source (who not coincidentally was the individual in charge of installing the new shingles) said that it's not a good idea to lift the shingles off of the drip edge. Reason being it tends to let the wind have its way with the shingles. Made sense to me. But was also quite frustrating to me. Now what was I to do? "Put in some counter flashing." Right. Counter flashing. Like I'm going to know what that is. I only learned what flashing was 24 hours ago!

Turns out counter-flashing is flashing (long, thin strips of sheet metal, remember) between the drip edge and the roof, and put the lower edge of the new flashing into the gutter.

Nothing else had worked, and the flashing was ridiculously inexpensive. $14 later and a smattering of time (about 30 minutes), the flashing was tucked firmly under the "back edge" of the drip edge, and resting comfortably in the gutter. (See diagram 3.) Four hours later, the rain and snow comes...and the flower bed and window wells are dry as can be. From the gutter water anyway.

A side-note: close observation of the shingles and the drip edge prompted a hypothesis that I'm working on. Of course, I can't really prove it until I get the roof re-shingled in a few years (shudder). So, if you have any information on it, please write me and let me know! Anyway, the hypothesis is this: it seemed that where the water flowed most comfortably and tight along the drip edge and down on the yard was where the shingles didn't over-hang the drip edge. In fact, it seemed to be about 1/32" above the drip edge, so just that much of the drip edge was seeing sky. It seems this is the probable cause to me, but the guy that did the shingles said, "I don't know why the water does that, but sometimes it just does." So, if you know...please tell me!

Diagram 1
diagram 1
Diagram 2
diagram 2
Diagram 3
diagram 3