Do My Gutters Need to Be Cleaned?
Many homeowners may wonder how necessary it actually is to clean their gutters. Debris will clog your gutters and prevent water from passing. This backed up water can cause major damage to your roof above or your home below. Instead of being directed away from your house, water may begin to overflow onto your yard, foundation or into a window well, causing flooding and damage.
In the winter, icicles may form in these places and become a dangerous hazard to people or objects below. Also, if water is allowed to freeze and weigh down your gutters, over time the nails may work their way out of the fascia (the board between the gutters and the house). The gutters may become loose or even fall under the weight of the ice.
If the gutters or downspouts are clogged, the gutters ice up faster. Ice will start building up on the roof a lot sooner, potentially causing ice dams resulting in expensive repairs.
Cleaning your gutters regularly will make each cleaning a simple, easy job and prevent much more expensive and frustrating gutter problems.
When Do My Gutters Need to Be Cleaned?
Many people will agree that gutter maintenance is important, but they may not know when their gutters truly need to be cleaned. The typical times that gutters need to be cleaned are throughout the autumn season, when leaves fall from the trees, and in late spring or early summer when seeds, blossoms, fruit, etc. may fall from the trees. However, if you are seeing any signs of gutter problems, clean your gutters right away.
Safely Accessing Your Gutters
Before you begin the process of cleaning out your gutters, keep in mind that, typically, gutters are not very strong and they will not withstand your weight or aggressive cleaning tools. If gutters are treated as house pipes, problems will arise. Instead, be sure to keep your weight off of the gutters, and be as gentle as possible throughout the cleaning process.
A step ladder is easier and safer to use when cleaning gutters. Your gutters simply cannot support the weight of a person on a ladder. If your gutter fasteners are more than 2 feet apart, a ladder will put pressure on the material and dent the gutter. Be sure that your step ladder is on stable ground and don’t step above the second rung from the top. Also, regardless of the ladder you use, be aware of power lines and avoid them throughout the gutter cleaning process.
Gutter Cleaning Tools
Bring a bucket up the ladder and place it on your roof or hang it from your ladder. This bucket will eliminate a mess on the ground below. Also, grab a pair of waterproof gloves. You can also wear latex gloves under normal work gloves as an improvisation.
A safe, common gutter cleaning tool that most people will have on hand is a plastic gardening trowel. You can also cut a plastic milk jug at a 45 degree angle, following the demonstration in this quick Home Depot video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iw6rEkvXSkc
Do not use sharp garden trowels or other tools when cleaning out your gutters, as they can dent and otherwise damage your gutter.
During the winter months, ice may be built up in certain spots because of debris or plugs. To safely remove this ice, lay heat tape inside your gutter and plug it in. As it warms, it will cut through the ice and make debris removal easy. This heat tape can be found at your local hardware store.
Cleaning Your Gutters
Use your preferred tool to clean out your clogged gutters by hand. If there is caked in dirt or debris, soak it with some water first to make removal easier on yourself and your gutters. However, it is usually easier to remove loose debris when it is dry. After you have removed the debris, spray the gutters with a garden hose to remove leftover dirt or debris.
Cleaning Your Downspout
If the water does not drain, your downspout is most likely clogged. Check the inlet, or top, of the downspout for a plug of debris, this is the most common place for debris to collect. It is usually quite easily removed by hand.
Clogs in the actual downspout are rare, but if you suspect you may have one, gutters are really easy to take apart. Different sections of the downspout are held together by a few, easily removable screws. Use a ¼” nut driver to back screw these to quickly take the downspout apart. Spray out each piece of your downspout before putting it back together.
Check Your Gutter Slope
Once you have ensured that the downspout is clear, put the garden hose at the opposite end of the gutter from the downspout. Turn on the water again and watch to see how it drains. If it still does not drain correctly, check the slope of your gutter. It should slope at ¼” for every 10 feet. If you have an inadequate gutter slope, contact a gutter technician that can adjust your gutters for you. To do this yourself, unscrew the fasteners from the fascia board, adjust the gutter to the right slope and screw them back into place.