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Gutter-Cleaning: A How-To Guide

Gutter-Cleaning: A How-To Guide

Gutter cleaning is a relatively easy and mundane household tasks that often gets overlooked; but is crucially important to prevent damage to your home’s roof, exterior, foundation, and landscaping plants around the exterior of the home. In a heavy rainstorm, a clogged roof gutter will send a cascade of water running down the side of your house which can wreak serious havoc on your gardens, flower beds, and sofa while also saturating the foundation.

How Often Should Gutters Be Cleaned?

It is advised that roofing gutters be cleaned once a year. Although you may be able to get away with cleaning them on a bi-annual basis, you should at least check them once yearly to ensure that no leaf or debris buildups have occurred. If you have a lot of overhanging trees, it is advised to check and clean the gutters once every 6 months to ensure that no backups or clogs have occurred. Drainage clogs typically occur where downspouts meet the roofing gutters, so make sure to inspect and clean these areas especially well.

Should I Do It Myself or Hire Someone?

Cleaning gutters is not a hard task and can usually be completed in just a few hours. However, if heights aren’t your thing, or you simply don’t have the time or desire to mess with cleaning your own gutters, roofing companies will typically do the job for around $100-$300 depending on the length of your gutters, height of your house, and whether or not any roofing or gutter repairs or necessary.

Another option is to have Gutter Guards installed which typically come in the form of mesh screens or porous foam to prevent leaves and debris from getting into the gutters in the first place. These do not totally eliminate maintenace, as you will still have to have the screens cleared to ensure that water can get into the gutters without any blockages or issues. The price of gutter guards is dependant on which material and color you choose.

Supplies Needed

Decided to go ahead and do it yourself? Here’s what you’ll need:

Extendable Ladder – The ladder must be tall enough to reach the roof. Standoff stabilizers are also recommended to help prevent the ladder from causing indents or further damage to the gutter.

Gutter Scoop or Small Plastic Hand Shovel – Gutter scoops are sold at all hardware stores or you can use a plastic gardening shovel. Alternatively, child sand shovels can make a great impromptu option as well, provided that they are sturdy enough. It is not generally recommended to use a metal gardening shovel, as they can potentially cause damage to the gutters.

Gloves – Either leather work gloves or rubber gloves should be worn.

Bucket or Tarp – It is advised to have a small bucket or tarp placed below for the removed build up of dirt and leaves. The decomposed leaves make excellent compost for flower beds and gardens so make sure and save them.

Optional Supplies

Power Washer: If the gutters are properly fastened and secured, a power washer can be used to help speed up the process of cleaning your gutters. If you do decided to use a pressure washer, take care not to spray the gutters at too high of an angle, or you run the risk of blowing off the roofing shingles which will require additional roofing repairs.

Best Practices & Possible Repairs

While cleaning the gutters, it is advised to check all of the gutter nails that go through the gutter, the fascia board, and the rafter behind it. Many times the nail has worked it’s way loose over the years. If this is the case, you can reinsert them or invest in new ones to ensure that the gutter remains properly fastened to the house. You should also check the rivets on the downspouts, as they frequently work themselves loose over the years, or many times, even fall off completely. A rivet gun can be used to resucure these as well as metal sheeting screws.

Once you have finished clearing all of the debris, it is a great opportunity to use the garden hose to flush any remaining debris, and check for any possible leaks which need to be repaired. You will want to check for holes and cracks in the gutter, as well as cracked caulking in the seams. An old chisel can be used to scrape the old caulking and dry the area thoroughly. Once all of the old caulking has been removed, use new silicon sealing caulk to keep the watter from getting down behind the gutters and rotting the fascia boards.

If your current gutters are exhibiting signs of rust, they are likely very old and it is advised that they be replaced. New gutters are manufactured from aluminum or vinyl which do not rust and last much longer than the older style gutters. However, if you do decide to keep your old gutters, make sure that you sand off all of the rust, and coat them with a high quality rust-inhibiting paint and primer.

Splash blocks and downspout drain-away extensions are also important as the water from the downspout away from house’s foundation and nearby flowerbeds. If you do not currently have these installed, it is highly recommended that you add them to prevent costly foundation repairs in the future.

Summary:

Wheter you choose to do it yourself or hire it out to someone, cleaning your gutters should typically only take a few hours to complete. If you are uncertain of the shape and condition of your gutters, it is advised that you do a walk around to inspect different elements of the gutter to determine if supplies are necessary for repair prior to starting the cleaning process. This will ensure that your cleaning and repairs goes as smoothly as possible, without any unnecessary headaches or surprises. 

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