Cleaning and maintaining your gutters is just as important as changing the oil in your car.
Why Gutters Need Cleaning
When your gutters get clogged, you’ll see waterfalls pouring from their edges in warmer weather, and icicles glittering along the bottom in winter. That’s not the worst of it. Improperly cleaned and maintained gutters can lead to:
- Water leaks inside your ceiling and adjoining walls – Water exerts a tremendous amount of pressure. Like most things, it will find the path of least resistance. For some homeowners, this spells water damage inside the ceiling and walls (which leads to further problems).
- Siding issues – Invading water can lead to mold and rotting wood – not what you want inside your home’s walls. Unfortunately, by the time the damage becomes obvious, it’s typically too late.
- Damaged or detached gutters – The weight of waterlogged debris can cause gutter attachments to give, resulting in a fallen gutter.
- Basement and foundation damage – Water is relentless. If it doesn’t drain away from your house properly, it can flood the basement or crack the foundation. It won’t get better without repair.
Tips for Cleaning Your Gutters
Most homeowners need to clean their gutters twice a year. First, in October, or when the trees are almost done shedding their leaves. Late spring is another good time, if a second cleaning is needed. If they haven’t been cleaned for a very long time, the job may be more difficult. Keep several tips in mind when cleaning gutters:
- Wear leather gloves and long sleeves while cleaning your gutters to protect your hands and arms. You may encounter sharp edges, hidden screw ends, or other hazards.
- Spread plastic sheeting over shrubs and decorations you do not want exposed to the cleaning.
- Position a wheelbarrow, trash bin, tarp or plastic sheeting on the ground under your work area. Throw the debris onto the tarp instead of carrying a garbage bag up the ladder with you.
- Set up your ladder on a stable area near a corner of the house (close to a downspout). Never stand above the third step from the top of a ladder or reach more than a couple of feet to the sides to prevent falling.
- Avoid resting the ladder against the gutters. Use standoff stabilizers (ladder horns) to keep the weight off the gutters if needed.
- Starting at the corner downspout, work away from it, scooping out any leaves, dirt and debris.
- Scrub inside the gutter, if needed, with a soft- or wire-bristled brush.
- Flush the gutters, using a garden hose equipped with a spray nozzle in order to create water pressure. Move the water through the gutters and out the downspouts.
- Snake any downspout that appears clogged.
- Clean the outside of the gutter, using hot, soapy water, and wash away any splatter or spills on the siding.
Gutter Maintenance and Repair
Slow down the debris accumulation in your gutters to make maintenance and cleaning easier. Some repair and maintenance tasks you may be able to perform yourself include the following:
- Adjust the gutter slope if water doesn’t flow readily and the downspouts are clear. Gutters should run downhill toward the downspouts at a rate of ¼ inch per 10 feet of travel.
- Install mesh screens or a leaf-catching system. If you decide to buy one of these systems, be sure to get a type that can be easily removed when it’s time to clean the gutters.
- Check the gutter system every time you clean it. Look for rust, leaks, or loose connections. Watch for signs of water leaks into the house, dry rot of surrounding wood, or other damage.
- To fix small holes, leaks or loose connections, use silicone caulk or gutter sealant as directed.
If your house is taller than two stories, consider hiring a professional. Get estimates from three companies before choosing the one you want to work with.