The economy continues to struggle across the United States. Whenever this occurs, disposable income shrinks, families save less… and thieves become more creative and diligent.
The latter axiom is manifesting itself through the thefts of gutters and downspouts. Criminals are looking for this equipment from hardware yards, on houses under construction, and even hanging on homes where people are living. They pull or cut the gutters and downspouts down and flee quickly; often, the theft isn’t noticed for a few days (or weeks if it doesn’t rain.)
Why Are Gutters Stolen?
These thieves then take their bounty to scrap metal yards, which pay money for the gutters and sell the metal to manufacturers who recycle it into new products. Some thieves grab aluminum gutters, but the most popular material is copper, which is worth more per pound than any other gutter or downspout material. While some scrap yards are starting to demand identification from people trading in scrap metal, this type of theft is still costing Americans hundreds (or sometimes thousands) of dollars in replacement gutters.
Can homeowners — especially those who have copper gutters — protect themselves from becoming victims of these types of crimes?
How to Protect Your Gutters From Being Stolen
Thankfully, there is some hardware that can keep copper gutters and downspouts more secure. The first item is known as a pin bolt, which is simply a stronger fastener than a screw, nail, or rivet. Using pin bolts to fasten gutters to homes will make them much more difficult to yank down. Attaching them may require larger drill holes, but it’s worth the effort for people who worry about their gutters being stolen.
Pin bolts can also be used to secure downspouts to siding or brick so that they cannot be easily pulled away from the home. In addition, products like copper circular clamps and brass brackets can take the place of thin copper straps in order to provide more security for downspouts. Circular clamps wrap completely around the downspout and are closed with a pin bolt that is also secured to the home; while brackets are positioned flush against the home with pin bolts so that the downspout is protected. Neither these clamps nor the brackets can be easily snipped or sawed open to remove the downspouts.
There are also some common sense measures all homeowners can take to prevent gutter theft. They include:
- keeping shrubs and bushes trimmed near your home or in your yard, so that thieves cannot hide on your property before and during attempted gutter thefts
- incorporating thorny plants near your home to discourage thieves from messing with downspouts
- ensuring that your property has adequate lighting at night so that would-be gutter thieves cannot hide in darkness
- incorporating motion sensors so that lights will illuminate if someone approaches your home at night
- checking perimeter fencing to make sure that there are no easy access points for thieves
- checking the roof on a regular basis to make sure your gutters haven’t been tampered with
- disguising your copper gutters with paint or other coverings so they don’t appear to be made of valuable copper
In the end, it’s up to each individual homeowner to decide how much effort and money should be put into securing gutters. After all, if they are stolen, they might even be covered by homeowner’s insurance policies. But taking a few common-sense precautions can go a long way toward thwarting gutter and downspout thieves.
Photo credit #3: RutlandGutterSupply
Written by Chris Martin