A.Henri de Marne responds: Gutters are helpful and are required in many jurisdictions, but they can cause serious problems in very cold climates. They can fill with ice and cause water to back up under the roof sheathing even if a membrane like Grace Ice & Water Shield has been installed under the shingles. They can be knocked down by ice and require yearly repairs. The downspouts are often cracked open and discharge water onto the siding, which can lead to rot. I typically recommend gutters only for houses that are very well insulated, have effective attic ventilation, and have gone through one or more winters without ice damming.

Removal or omission of gutters does not have to create basement water problems. Even if you have gutters, you can have a damp or leaky basement if the grading, walks, driveways, decks, or planters allow water to stand against or run toward the foundation.

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