If you decide to hire a professional, or clean gutters yourself, it’s an important activity that can prevent damage to your basement and the foundation of your home. It’s true that gutter cleaning is a job we would all like to procrastinate on, but it’s a critical semi-annual task that everyone who owns a home needs to complete. When debris in the gutters builds up, it can cause an overflow during the freeze/thaw cycles in the winter months. This overflow causes ice dams on the roof of your house that forces water inside the home. During the other months, overflow and poor downspout drainage conditions can cause water to pool near your foundation, ultimately weakening it and ending up inside your basement.
If you manage to clean your gutters once and a while, to the point where they don’t actually overflow, there is still a risk with a small amount of debris causing standing water in the eavestrough. This standing water invites all kinds of pests and depending on the condition of your roof, they can enter your home.
Gutters that are not attended to can also get heavy, to the point they’ll pull away from the house and over time, cause rot and mold to build up in the structure of your home.
A general rule is that if you have several trees around your property, you’ll want to clean your eavestrough more frequently because trees shed debris at varying times of the year, not just the fall.
Cleaning your gutters is a simple process and there are several ways to get the job done. However, it will always involve the use of a ladder. So if you don’t feel comfortable working from heights on a ladder, then your best bet is to call in a professional. Another time to call a professional is when you have gutters located higher than the first story. Pros know how to get to these gutters safely and efficiently. It often involves tying off with a harness to ensure the safety of the people and property while the work is taking place. We don’t recommend that the average homeowner attempt cleaning second or third story gutters on their own.
If you are okay to climb a ladder and access the inside of your first story gutters, you’ll find that the best technique is to bring a pail up the ladder with you and then scoop the built-up debris from the gutter into the pail. You may have seen fancy gadgets like gutter nozzles on a shop-vac, or extension poles with forcep-like attachments, or (regrettably) robots that claim to clean your gutters automatically. Forget about these ridiculous widgets. Throw a pair of work gloves on and get after it.
Have an assistant (like a family member) hold the ladder and make sure it’s well stabilized at all times. Since you’ll be leaning side to side while cleaning your gutters, having someone to keep the ladder on secure footing and counterbalance the weight is very important. You may also want to invest in a “ladder stand-off” to prevent damage to your home or denting your eavestrough from the pressure of the ladder.
Once all the debris has been scooped out of your gutters, haul your garden hose up the ladder and spray out the inside of the eaves until they are completely clean. Next, position your ladder near the opening of a downspout and spray your hose into the opening to flush it out. If applicable, have your assistant visually confirm that water is coming out of the exit point of the downspout on the ground.
Even if you don’t install any “gutter-guard” style coverings over your eavestrough, you may still want to invest in installing leaf strainers at the top of downspout openings. These are inexpensive and will prevent large blockages from building up in your downspouts.
After cleaning your gutters, it’s important to visually inspect their performance when it rains, every once and a while. Check for leaks coming out of the gutters themselves, and the downspouts, and make a note of the locations so you can patch them at a later date. Also, check for proper drainage slope on your gutters. They should be draining at a slight downward angle. Over time, sagging spots can develop and create a standing water problem. Or, during heavy rains, the sagging spots can cause overflows. Keep an eye out for these conditions and take action accordingly.
Finally, even if you have a “gutter-guard” style screen system installed over top of your gutters, you’ll still have to clean inside your eaves at least once per year. No screen system can prevent 100% of debris from building up, so don’t let these systems lull you into a false sense of security and create future problems for you because you neglected to clean under the screens.