Gutters are your home’s best defense against the destructive forces of water. Not only do they protect your doors, ceilings, walls and foundations from water damage, they also defend against soil erosion, basement flooding and the staining and decay of your fascia.
For gutters to work properly, however, they must be kept clear of the debris that regularly accumulates there. This article will teach you about the benefits of gutter cleaning and how to go about it yourself.
Signs Your Gutters Need a Cleaning
Clogged gutters, although they may seem of little consequence, can have a devastating impact on your house.
If your rain gutters get clogged, water can no longer run away from your house. Instead, it flows over the sides of your gutters, causing damage to your foundation, mold, mildew, basement flooding and structural issues. Damage from clogged gutters are often expensive and sometimes cost homeowners thousands of dollars.
To avoid these issues, inspect your gutters frequently. If you notice any of the following things, you may have clogged gutters:
- Animals and pests are present: If critters or bugs are crawling around on your gutters, there is a high chance that you have clogged gutters. Many animals, including birds, possums, mice, squirrels and snakes, use the debris in clogged gutters to make nests.
- Water is overflowing: If water is spilling over the sides, it is highly likely that your gutters are clogged. Water flowing over the edges of your gutters can lead to costly water damages, such as the flooding of your basement.
- Your gutters are sagging: The debris in your gutters can be heavy, especially when the debris contains shingle grit and pine needles. This can cause your gutters to bend and sag, making them unable to carry water away from your house. If gutters go a long time without being cleaned, the weight of the debris will begin to affect the guttering itself. They may even begin to pull away from your house, which will cause even more problems.
- Your siding has stain marks: If you notice that your siding has been stained, this may mean that there is standing water in your gutters. Stagnant rainwater may end up damaging the fascia boards on the shingles of your roof and behind the gutters.
- Plants are growing: If you notice a garden growing in your gutter, this is a tell-tale sign of clogged gutters. Seeds and dirt can both easily make their way into gutters. If you have foam gutter guards installed, this will encourage plants to grow in your gutters.
- You haven’t cleaned them out in a long time: If it’s been ages since you last removed debris from your gutters, chances are they’re in need of a thorough cleaning. Aim to clean your gutter system each season so that you protect your home against costly water damages.
Damages Clogged Gutters Can Cause
Clogged gutters can damage much more than themselves. If water is not allowed to flow away from your house, it can cause damage to many areas of your home. Clogged gutters often lead to damage to the following areas:
- The foundation: Gutters serve to keep water off the roof and away from the foundation. If a gutter is clogged, the water in it will overflow and accumulate around the foundation. It can eventually cause cracks to form in the foundation, which could cause it to collapse. Even if the foundation doesn’t collapse, it can still cause mold.
- The fascia boards: Fascia boards hold the gutter system and are typically made of wood. Overflowing gutters will cause these boards to rot and deteriorate. Rainwater may also flow down the sides of a home, so if you have wood siding, it could be damaged too.
- The landscape: Clogged gutters often cause water to land on flower beds, bushes or small trees surrounding a home.
How to Clean Your Gutters
It is important to periodically clean out your gutters and fix sagging or damaged hangers right after you spot them. If your gutters have never been cleaned, then you may have to replace them completely, depending on how worn out or damaged they are.
How often you need to clean out your gutters depends on your climate and the landscape surrounding your house. In a desert environment, for instance, it may be possible to go a year without any upkeep. But if you live in an area where leaves fall in autumn, clean out your gutters a minimum of two times per year. If you live in a heavily wooded area, you may have to clean out your gutters three or four times per year.
The single most critical time of year to clean your gutters is near the end of fall when the majority of the leaves have fallen. The second most important time for cleaning is during spring or the beginning of summer. This is because pollen, seeds and flower petals can accumulate and cause clogging.
Follow these safety tips to learn how to maintain your gutters without hurting yourself or damaging your home. If you do not familiarize yourself with all this information, this activity can be dangerous.
- Find an appropriate ladder: If your home is only one story, a stepladder with four legs will do. If it’s two stories high, extension ladders work better.
- Examine the ladder:You want to ensure your ladder is sturdy and that each step is stable. Determine if the ground is level by climbing the first couple of steps. If your soil is particularly soft, make the ladder more stable by sticking some plywood underneath the legs.
- Don’t put the ladder on the gutters: Gutters were not designed to withstand this kind of weight. Any additional weight could bend or break them.
- Wear thick gloves: Your hands need to be protected from dirt, sharp debris, animal excrement and various other hazardous materials. Gloves made of leather or suede will do the best job of protecting your hands.
- Protect your eyes: Put on goggles or other protective eyewear to keep your eyes safe. This is especially important when you remove debris, as many little creatures may be living in it.
- Wear rubber-soled shoes: Walk on the roof with rubber-soled shoes, which will provide more traction.
- Work with a spotter: If you’re worried that your ladder may fall, get someone to hold it for you. It’s also a good idea to always keep a hand and both legs on the ladder.
- Tie a bucket to the ladder: Use a lanyard to securely attach a bucket to the ladder’s shelf when collecting debris. This will free up both of your hands. You can attach a second bucket to hold your tools.
- Use a pressure washer with care: The most effective way to clean gutters is with a pressure washer, which can be rented from most home improvement stores. Make sure you follow the instructions for the washer exactly. Typically the pressure washer can be used with a regular garden hose. Make sure not to hit the gutters at too high of an angle — if you do, you could strip shingles off your roof.
- Make sure the gutters are secured: If you’re going to use the pressure washer, make sure the gutters are fastened properly with screws or new spikes.
- Rusty gutters should just be replaced: If your gutters are rusting, you should consider buying new ones. If you decide to stick with the old, however, make sure to remove all the rust, sand them down, then paint them with a primer and then a high-quality rust-inhibiting paint.
- Find a plastic gutter scoop: This tool makes it much easier to take out large pieces of debris from your gutter.
- Protect your lawn: You can protect your yard by covering it with a plastic tarp.
- Flush the gutters when you’re done: Once the muck is cleaned, wash out your gutters with a garden hose. This will also help you spot any leaks.
How to Clean Downspouts
You should make sure that your downspouts aren’t clogged either since they are just as necessary for carrying water away from your house’s foundation. If your downspouts are clogged, here are three common causes:
- They’re not big enough: The bigger your downspouts are, the more effective they’ll be at dispelling water away from your house. If they’re too small, they risk getting clogged with organic debris.
- They’re not long enough: If your downspouts aren’t sufficiently long, rainwater may end up in your basement. It is recommended that you have downspouts with hinge kickers or a permanently attached extension. Hinge kickers will enable you to fold up downspouts when maintaining your yard. Underground drainpipes, which have a pop-up system in the lawn, let homeowners channel water even farther away from their foundation without having to look at long downspouts, which can sometimes be unsafe and visually unappealing. This system can also help to prevent soil erosion near your foundation.
- You need more downspouts: It is essential that you have enough downspouts installed to handle the runoff you are expected to experience in your region. If you have too few, your gutters will overflow, sometimes causing rainwater to seep into your basement.
One important element to consider is a splash block. This object keeps the water exiting the downspout from creating a trench next to the house, which helps to keep water away from the foundation.
Gutter Guards and Screens
If you’d like to give your gutters extra protection and clean them less frequently, you can install gutter guards. This doesn’t mean you’ll never scale a ladder again, though — even gutters with the best guards must be cleaned every couple of years.
Guards and screens help to prevent clogging by letting water flow to the gutter while blocking debris. Many guards are available, but the best one for you will depend upon your environment, so it’s best to learn about each system before making a decision.
Gutter guards typically come in one of three types:
- Screens: These guards are a popular option and cover your gutter using a membrane that lets water pass through and blocks debris. Some screens are simple and look similar to window screens, while others are more complex and have several layers that help to block tiny particles. Screens, like any filter, must be taken out and cleaned every once in a while.
- Inserts: Inserts are the most affordable option and the installation is easy. These guards consist of a foam material that fills up the gutter, allowing water to come through while blocking debris. These filters must be taken out and cleaned regularly.
- Reverse Curves: More advanced than the other two options, reverse curves send rainfall around a curve and through a tiny opening, while debris simply falls from the roof and onto the ground. High-quality reverse curve systems do not need much maintenance, and while they’re good at keeping debris out of the gutters, sometimes it is difficult to collect all of the water during heavy rainfall. These systems tend to be expensive and can cost $30 a foot. To ensure proper functioning, have your reverse curves installed by an experienced professional.
Should You Hire A Professional To Clean Your Gutters?
If you hope to never clean another gutter in your life, there is only one option — hire professional gutter cleaners. If your gutters are challenging to access and you don’t feel comfortable performing this challenging physical task, this may be a particularly wise choice.
With professionals, you can rest assured that every aspect of the job will be done right. They are trained in using pressure washers and won’t damage your gutters or shingles in the process. They also know which cleaning products work the best for your type of house and have experience removing and replacing gutter guards. Furthermore, just by inspecting your gutters, they can detect issues with your drainage and fix them long before they cause problems.