Gutter cleaning is a job that very few people actually want to do, and something that is often overlooked or left till the last moment, because it is a time-consuming and possibly dangerous job.
There is a multitude of advantages to keeping your home’s gutters clean, while not doing so could lead to costly issues, including damage to your roof, gutters, driveway, and yard.
Clean gutters do not only protect your home from water damage, but they also keep your roof and home looking clean and neat.
How Often Should You Clean Your Gutters?
The answer to this question depends on a number of circumstances, such as
- where you live,
- what sort of weather your home is regularly exposed to,
- and how many trees there are close to or overhanging your home, and what kinds they are.
A simple answer would be to check your gutters on a monthly basis and clean out any obvious clogs or blockages, and to set a routine for yourself to clean them properly 2 or 3 times each year.
If you live in a heavily-wooded area, you may find that even once a month there is some work to do, however, if you live in an area with few to no trees, this might be wholly unnecessary.
Bear in mind, though, that dust, debris, and dirt can be carried long distances in the wind, and even if you cannot imagine how your gutters could be getting full of leaves, it is still possible.
Be sure to check your gutters regularly for birds and other wildlife that may like to make their nests in your gutters. This will tell you that there are areas of your gutters that certainly need to be cleaned, even if you can’t see them at first glance. Birds like to build their nests in your gutters if they are not regularly maintained, especially in dry weather areas.
So the answer to the question, “how often should you clean your gutters?”, is:
- three times a year, at least, in areas that are heavily wooded and receive high annual rainfall or other forms of intense weather, including high winds and heavy snows;
- and twice a year in milder weather areas and areas with little to no tree coverage.
How to Clean Your Gutters
Cleaning your gutters is a job that must be done with caution. After all, standing on a ladder while removing debris from a small space could be dangerous.
If you do not feel confident that you have the ability or the equipment to do the job correctly, it may be best to hire a professional service to safely and efficiently do the job for you.
What You Will Need
If you do decide to do the job yourself, you will need to have a few things ready before you get started:
- A strong, sturdy ladder
- A hose connected to a water outlet
- A handheld shovel, handheld broom, or something similar to remove compacted debris
- Roof sealant (optional)
- A plumber’s snake (optional)
- A garbage bag
Make sure you do not do this job alone. A fall could be a disaster if nobody is around to call for help. Ideally, have a partner who can hold the ladder for you, hand you the tools, and call for help in the case of an emergency.
Climb the ladder to find a safe, secure spot to stand where you can see the gutters clearly. If your roof is dry and relatively flat, you could choose to climb onto the roof and do the job from there – this will mean you do not have to climb up and down the ladder each time you need to reach a new part of the gutter.
Have your partner pass you the tools and find a flat, safe place to put them within easy reach. Start by removing debris and dirt with the shovel, and then clean further with the broom before rinsing with water from the hose. Place all the dirt into the garbage bag for easy disposal.
As you work on each section, check it for cracks, splits, or damaged seals. Use roof sealant to repair any damage you find.
Check that the gutters are still securely fastened to the fascia of the house at all points, and make a note of any sections that may need to be solidified or strengthened. Check the downspouts for clogging, and use the plumber’s snake to clear any blockages. Also, check them for damage or cracks.
If you come across anything that you are unsure how to fix or you feel needs a professional’s attention, be sure to mark the area and employ an expert to solve the problem.
The Consequences of Clogged Gutters
It is very easy to overlook small problems with your gutters, but in time, those small problems will turn into big ones. These big problems could come in many forms, including roof damage, and interior damage, all of which are likely to cost a lot of money to solve. Problems that are likely to be caused by neglecting your gutters include:
Leaking: If gutters fill up with debris, they will overflow and downpipes will not work properly, leaving water in unexpected places.
Damage to the roof: Overflowing gutters can lead to water damage on your roof and in your home. When gutters overflow, the water can push under the shingles and into your ceiling space. This can cause damage to your home’s interior and to the roof itself, which may require replacement.
Damage to gutters: Gutter systems are not intended to hold the weight of all the water that can fit in them up until the point that they overflow. This means that if your gutters get too full, all that water weight could cause the gutters to crack, or to pull away from the fascia of the roof, causing more damage.
Damage to your yard: When your gutters overflow, water ends up in places you don’t expect, and this could cause damage to your garden or paving, causing a muddy mess wherever it falls. In winter, this excess water could freeze, causing or widening cracks in paving, and creating a safety hazard for you and your family.
Mold: Allowing dirt and debris to gather in your gutter system creates an ecosystem in which mold and fungi will flourish. Once mold begins to grow in your gutters, it is very difficult to eradicate, and it can easily spread into your home.
Pest infestations: A collection of leaves, twigs, moss, and dirt makes the perfect nesting environment for many types of wildlife and pests, including squirrels, snakes, bugs, and birds. Standing water is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, gnats, and flies, as well as other annoying insects.
How to Tell When Your Gutters Need Cleaning
If you decide to check your gutters each month, it will be fairly easy to notice when they need to be properly cleaned. If you are not giving yourself such a regular schedule, then it is a good idea to know what the signs are that there may be a problem with your gutters. Look for the following:
- Obvious signs of leaves and sticks – if you are able to notice these in passing, you can be certain that your gutters have gathered a large amount of debris and need to be cleaned.
- Living vines or plants – if you see any plants growing in the gutters or the downpipes, your gutters need immediate attention. These plants can only grow in an accumulation of soil, which means your gutters are quite dirty already, and the plants themselves will cause further blockages.
- Gutters overflowing during rain – if, during a rainfall, you see water falling over the edges of the gutters, you can be certain that there is a blockage preventing the rainwater from getting to the downpipes.
- Drips and leaks – if you see water dripping or pouring from the bottom of the gutter, or coming out anywhere other than the bottom of the downpipe, there could be a leak or a broken seal that needs to be addressed. However, drips can also come from water slowly overflowing the gutter and running down to the bottom before dripping to the ground.
- Pests and insects – if you notice a lot of mosquitoes in your home, and there is nowhere nearby that they are likely to be breeding, checking your gutters for standing water may answer that riddle. Also, look for signs of rodents, birds, and pests living in your gutters. The fact that they are choosing to live there may tell you a lot about the state of your gutters.