Maintaining Gutters

Gutters are a vital part of the roofing system. They need routine maintenance in order to prevent damage to your home and keep your exterior looking nice. Gutters are your home’s first line of defence, keeping water from seeping into the house by directing rainwater. If gutters are clogged with debris, or they’re damaged in some way, they won’t perform correctly, and that could eventually result in water damage that is difficult and costly to repair.

As you can see, it’s therefore vital to maintain your gutters with regular cleaning, but this task is often overlooked. We may wait until late autumn to get around to gutter maintenance, but by this point there may already be an excess of leaves and other debris which may already have caused damage. Infrequent cleaning makes it a more difficult task when you do get to it as well.

Gutters should be cleaned twice a year, in spring and autumn. When it’s done consistently, it becomes an easy task that doesn’t take very long at all. If you skip it one season, it can become much more troublesome, and even end up costing a lot of money down the road.

Clogged gutters are much more than an inconvenience from the water pouring off the roof when it rains. Excess water in gutters actually can begin to cause structural damage to the home. A gutter  system is designed to move water away from the house and its foundation. When gutters get clogged and water sits in them, it will find the path of least resistance, which often means seeping into your roof, walls, ceilings, and foundation. This obviously can cause a lot of damage over time.

The most common problem that can arise from clogged gutters is simply that all those leaves, twigs, and other collected debris add a lot of weight, especially when they’ve absorbed a lot of rainwater. Gutters are not designed to support that much weight and it will put stress on the brackets and the gutters themselves, causing them to pull off the house. Falling gutters are expensive to replace, and they can easily smash lights or windows as they fall, leading to even more costly issues.

Overflowing water can cause damage to siding and paint, leaving unsightly water marks on the home’s exterior. This is only the start of bigger problems if that water gets inside the wall. When wood gets wet it begins to rot and lose its structural integrity. This interior structural damage can go unseen if water is dripping down behind the siding.

Water expands when it freezes, so water that is is left in clogged gutters leads to ice-damming. The ice pushes up against the structure of the roof and works its way under shingles and siding. This damages the wood and opens up areas for even more leaking.

Cracked foundations and flooded basements can also be a result of clogged gutters. If water isn’t draining away from the house properly, it will pool around the foundation, seeping into any available space, and if it freezes, it leads to cracks which open a foundation or basement up to even more water and eventually flooding.

It’s clear that proper gutter maintenance is vital to maintain the integrity of your home. It’s not that difficult and only requires some simple tools. There are various techniques and tricks that are used by handymen and experts, but the main concept is always the same: get on a ladder and pull all the stuff out of the gutters.

The tools you’ll need include a ladder, a container like a garbage bag or bucket to hold debris, a garden trowel or a small hand rake, gloves, and your garden hose.

Start with your ladder set up about an arm’s length from a corner downspout. Tuck some bags in your pocket so they’ll be easy to grab once you’re up on the ladder. You can also get a bucket hanger for the ladder, but small bags like plastic shopping bags are easier to manage and don’t get as heavy.

Don’t put your trowel or rake in your pocket as you climb the ladder, as they could impale you if you fall. Hold your tool in hand as you climb. Once you’re up there, use your tool to pull debris away from the downspout. Don’t let the debris fall into the downspout as it can easily form a clog that’s harder to reach. Fill up your bags and simply tie them shut and drop them to the ground when they’re full. Be sure to drop them away from the ladder so that they don’t block your descent.

Move the ladder around the house and repeat until you’ve cleaned out all the gutters. Don’t reach further than an arm’s length away in an effort to avoid moving the ladder. Be sure to scoop up all the dirt that’s collected at the bottom of the gutter as much as possible, as it gets very heavy when wet.

If you’re worried about dealing with bags while up on a ladder, you can also throw the debris directly onto the ground. It’s very messy, but you may be more comfortable having to rake up everything later rather than fumbling with bags while on a ladder. You can also lay out a tarp to throw the material down to, which makes clean up a bit easier.

Once you’ve cleaned an entire section of the gutter, use the hose to spray it down, being sure to get all those little pieces through the downspout. If there’s a clog, a plumber’s snake can clear them out. As you’re washing out the gutters, also check for any leaks. You can use a silicone sealant to quickly repair them, preventing future rainwater from taking an unwanted path.