Your gutter system is a crucial component that works to keep water away from your home. To do this, however, they need to be correctly maintained and cleaned regularly. An often-dreaded chore among homeowners, cleaning your gutters can undoubtedly be one of the more tedious and dirty jobs as part of your responsibilities as a homeowner. Staying on top of proper gutter maintenance is incredibly important, and when left unchecked, can result in damages to your home that are costly to repair.
In general, you should plan to clean your gutters at least two times per year, typically in the Spring and Fall. If several trees surround your home, you should plan to clean your gutter more often since there will be increases debris build-up from the falling leaves and twigs. After heavy storms, you may want to check the gutters to ensure you have proper drainage, and that water is not pooling in the gutters or around your house. Like all other components and systems in your home, gutters require regular maintenance to ensure they are working properly and not causing issues.
How Gutters Function
The gutter's purpose is to direct water safely away from the home structure because of rain or snowfall. As the water flows down the roof, the shingles guide the water down to the gutters system, directing it out through the downspouts and away from the house's structure. While your gutter system is relatively straightforward and with a simple function, if this process is disrupting due to clogged gutters or broken materials, it can create a serious issue when the water is not displaced into a safe location.
Water Away from the House
As a rule of thumb for homeowners, you want to keep your water away from your home. In addition to a properly maintained gutter system, you want to make sure that the downspout drains at least 6 feet away from your home. Better yet, having proper grading, about a one-inch decline for every foot away from your home, will also help move the water out to a safe distance. Ensuring that your gutter system does not leak and is unclogged, you help avoid an issue associated with water.
What you do not want is to have water pool around your property. Extended exposure to moisture can create issues with your foundation, such as rotting wooden components and shifting or cracking of the foundation due to soil erosion. Water pooling around the base of you can be caused by:
- Leaks in the gutter system.
- Downspouts expelling water too close to the structure.
- Clogged gutters overflowing, and even falling off due to the weight of the water and debris. Falling gutter pieces can also potentially damage the home's exterior and lead to additional water intrusion inside the house.
Damage to the foundation and other issues associated with water intrusion can often be costly repairs that require invasive procedures. Cleaning your gutters and making sure to fix broken parts are the best actions you can take to help prevent water from pooling around your home.
Ways to Clean your Gutters
There are various ways you approach cleaning your gutter, with some methods being more effective depending on the condition of your gutter system. In most cases, you will need a reliable ladder so you can safely reach the gutter to clean them and a working hose to rinse out the gutters after cleaning.
1. By Hand
Choosing the old-fashioned route of manually cleaning out your gutters is a tried-and-true method. You will need some equipment to get the job done effectively and safely:
- Puncture-resistant gloves to protect your hands from sharp twigs and debris.
- A sturdy bucket to collect the removed debris.
- Optionally, you can get a Gutter Getter specifically made to scoop out debris from the gutter, which costs less than $10. In a pinch, you can also use a garden spade or kitchen spatula in the same fashion.
Simply climb up your ladder and begin grabbing out the debris from the gutter and placing it into your bucket. Once the heavy debris is removed, rinse out the gutters using your hose and ensure the downspouts are draining properly.
2. Leaf Blower
In some cases, when it has not rained in a while, and the debris in the gutters are relatively dry, you can employ your leaf blower to clear out the gutters. Most leaf blowers come with a fine tip nozzle that creates a compressed air stream, which works perfectly for your gutters. Climb up your ladder and find the right angle to blow the debris up and out from the gutters. Make sure not to blow the debris down into your downspout and clogging it. For those hesitant or unable to climb up a ladder, you can even find attachments specifically made to extend the reach of your leaf blower so you can use it while standing safely on the ground.
3. Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum
For heavier debris in your gutter that is obstructed by dirt or decomposed organic matter, you can employ your wet/dry shop vacuum. Like the leaf blower, they are specialized attachments that extend your reach, allowing you to clean your gutter from the ground floor. While these machines are powerful, you may need to moisten the debris to loosen it before using the shop vacuum. Once you have vacuumed up the debris, finish by rinsing out the gutter system with your hose and ensure it is draining properly.
4. Power Washer
If it has been some time since your last cleaning, you may want to get a power washer to get rid of the grime and build-up that has occurred. Your power washer will be great at blasting away the dirt and debris in your gutter, but be aware that this is a messy process, so be prepared to rinse off your roof and exterior afterward. Additionally, the power washer is a great tool to flush out any stuck debris from clogged downspouts.
The most crucial part is ensuring you stay on top of your gutter cleaning to ensure that they are functioning properly and not creating issues for you. Try these different methods and find the one that works best for you and your home to develop a consistent maintenance routine. You may even consider installing some form of gutter guard for your system to help avoid debris getting in and creating clogs. Of course, you can always hire professionals to come and clean your gutters on your behalf. However, nothing beats the sense of accomplishment when you knock out your own home maintenance task like cleaning your gutters!