If you think a few leaves and twigs in your gutters are harmless, think again. Regular gutter cleaning is the single most important key to avoiding major and expensive home repairs.
Gutters perform one duty: controlling the water around your home. If debris keeps gutters from doing their job, you can wind up with some serious problems. By following these simple gutter cleaning tips, you can help avoid major and expensive home repairs.
- Leaking Gutters: Clogged gutters are the number one cause of basement water problems. When gutters are clogged, roof water overflows and accumulates around the foundation. If this happens, basement leaks may be moments away.
- Cracked Foundations: Clogged gutters can cause excess water against the foundation wall to weaken the footing and lead to foundation wall cracks. This is particularly true in the colder months when built-up water at the foundation freezes and causes a condition known as "frost-heave" which can cause severe cracks to foundation walls.
- Rotten Wood: Water backing up from clogged gutters will cause moisture damage to the wood fascia around the house. The rotted area will quickly get worse if the leak is not eliminated by cleaning the gutters.
- Leaking Roofs: In winter, ice dams can form on top of clogged gutters. Snow then builds up across the top of the clogged gutter and freezes. During the next thaw, water running off the roof is blocked by the frozen snow and backs up into the house. This can lead to major wall and ceiling damage.
- Slippery Sidewalks: Overflowing gutters can deposit water on walks and driveways where it can freeze and cause a tripping hazard. Avoid this problem by keeping gutters clean and the spouts extended away from any traffic areas.
- Cracked Driveways: Misdirected and clogged gutter spouts often cause driveways and walks to sag and crack.
- Washed Out Landscaping: Any newly installed plants, grass or trees can be killed by excess water from clogged gutters. Overflowing gutters can cause severe erosion and put an early end to young plantings.
- Wood Destroying Insects: Bugs love moisture. Keeping gutters free of clogs and keeping the soil dry around the foundation perimeter can force bugs to go elsewhere for a tasty snack of dampened two-by-four.
If you think your gutters need a good cleaning, here are some important tips to follow:
Safety First: If you are not comfortable with heights or don't use tall ladders regularly, cleaning gutters is not a job for you. Consider hiring a handyman to help. If you decide to do the gutter cleaning job yourself, watch out for hidden hazards like electric lines and bee's nests.
Clean Gutters: Using a ladder, work gloves and a hose, clear the gutters beginning at one end and moving to the other. Always work from the ladder and not from the roof, where you could fall off. If you find any loose gutter sections, tighten them up as you go along. It may help to have a supply of long lag bolts to use when replacing loose or missing gutter spikes. Lag bolts won't pull out like spikes, so you usually don't have to do this more than once.
Spray Spouts: When you get to the end of the gutter where the spout is, spray the hose down the gutter spout to make sure it's clear. If the spout is clogged, water will back up and cause problems. Clearing clogged spouts can be a chore. Try removing the debris from both ends and flushing out the rest with a hose. If this doesn't work you may need to take the spout apart to clear it. Once the spouts are clear, make sure the discharge end is extended at least 4 to 6 feet away from the house to avoid problems.
Install Gutter Guards: Once the gutter system is cleaned and properly adjusted, consider installing gutter guards to avoid a repeat performance in the future.
There are many types of gutter guards available. Screens can be effective in the short run but eventually allow debris to get through. Clogs will reoccur and can be even harder to clear since the screens will need to be removed first. Leaf blocking guards, which look like a metal louver that is installed above the gutter, are a more costly but more effective option at keeping leaves off gutters. The louvers allow water to leak into the gutter while washing leaves over the side.
No matter what gutter product you choose, it is important that you check gutters periodically as well as be mindful of signs of clogging like over-flowing in a rainstorm. Maintaining a clean gutter is the single most effective way to avoid a whole host of serious and expensive problems.