Do My Gutters need Cleaning or Replacing



Are you having problems with a flooded basement? Maybe it’s because you didn’t clean your gutters. Keeping the rain gutters on your roof cleaned out prevents a lot of seemingly unrelated problems that homeowners seldom think about. When your gutters are clogged and you see rain water running over the top, it’s not only making messy puddles and trenches on the ground surrounding your home, that rain water has the potential to do a lot of very costly damage.

What you can see soaking into the ground around the home can be soaking into the foundation of the home. When the water freezes during the winter, it causes cracks in the foundation. If you have a basement down there, those cracks can lead to basement flooding. Those leafs and twigs in the gutters become heavy when they soak up water. The gutters can fall off your house. Falling gutters take down outside lighting and even break windows on the way down. But the unseen and most costly damage comes when water backs up under the roof. This causes the roof sheeting to rot (under the shingles or whatever roof top you have), or the trusses to rot, and water can even run down into the walls rotting wall studs, shorting out electrical systems, and water coming in the home. If you don’t clean out those gutters, the time may come when you literally no longer have a roof over your head.

Before Climbing Up the Ladder

You need to clean those gutters at least every spring and autumn. In some regions you may need to do this again late in the autumn after all of the leafs have fallen. While you’re at it, you need to check the downspouts to be sure these are draining properly. A blocked downspout will still cause water to backup into the gutters even if the gutters have been cleaned.

Regular gutter cleaning is low cost. It is physical work but it’s not technically challenging nor does it require expensive tools. To start with, you need is a sturdy ladder in good repair. A sturdy ladder is critical. Never climb a ladder with broken or damaged rungs. Never use a ladder that is shaky or that has a tendency to lean sideways. Houses built on a slope or hillside can be a challenge for propping up a steady ladder. There are attachments available to lengthen the downhill leg of a ladder. This can make the difference between a ladder being steady or falling over when the ladder slants sideways because one foot of the ladder is in a hole or drops off an inch or two on a downhill slope.

The other common tools you need are a pair of work gloves, a handheld garden trowel, a five-gallon bucket, and a garden hose. A good trick is wiring the bucket onto the ladder at a height close to the rain gutter level. That way, you don’t have to hold onto the bucket while scooping out the debris. Something else smart to do is check the weather forecast before planning to climb the ladder.

Cleaning Gutters and Downspouts

Never clean the gutters from the top of the roof. If you try this, you’ll be right at the edge of the roof and risk falling off. Start cleaning the gutters at the end nearest the downspout. Use the trowel and your gloved hands to first take out the large twigs, leafs, and other debris. Keep your body centered on the ladder (inside the vertical rails). Work one arm length of the gutter at a time. Get down, move the ladder, and work the next arm length. This takes a little time but a lot less time than a trip to the emergency room with a broken leg or arm from a fall. Also, if you use a ladder that leans against the house, there will be a small diagram on the side of the ladder leg showing you when the bottom of the ladder is the proper distance from the house. It’s a little 90-degree diagram (“L”) that will be vertical and horizontal when the ladder is leaning against the house correctly.

After you clean the large debris out, check to make sure the downspout is draining properly. Use the garden hose to run water down the spout. The water should not back up when you run plenty of water through it. This also helps flush out any small debris that might in there. Once you’re sure the downspout is clean, hose out the length of the gutters of any dirt and small debris that didn’t come out with the trowel. Afterwards, check one more time to be sure the downspout is flowing freely. That’s all there is to this twice a year chore. Put your tools away.

If the downspout isn’t flowing freely, you may have some more work to do. First, try flushing it out from the top using a spray attachment on your garden hose. If that doesn’t work, try flushing from the bottom going up. If the downspout goes underground, you might need to disconnect it at ground level and spray up the spout as well as underground. If these tricks don’t work, try unplugging it with a plumber’s snake or pressure washer before calling in a professional.

While you’re cleaning the gutters and downspouts, look for any damage to the entire system. The most common is for the gutters to be pulling away from the roof. If it is, you’re probably going to need to make a trip to the hardware store for some replacement hardware or need to call in a professional. Another thing to look for are leaks at the joints and corners. These can usually be sealed by cleaning the area thoroughly and applying some silicon sealant.

Please leave a comment about your own experiences with gutter cleaning or if you have questions/comments about this article.

Author bio: Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 35 years and writing about real estate investing for 10 years. He also draws upon 30 plus years of business experience including 12 years as a manager at Boeing Aircraft Company. Brian currently lives at Lake Cushman, Washington. A vacation destination, a few short miles from a national forest. With the Pacific Ocean a couple of miles in the opposite direction.

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