It’s that time of year again; the leaves are beginning to change colors from green to yellow, orange, and red. Although autumn foliage is absolutely stunning to look at, falling leaves can pose problems to your home, specifically your gutters. During a rainstorm, gutters route runoff from a very large surface—a home’s roof—to where it can drain away from the house.
In order to do their job properly, gutters and downspouts must be clear of leaves and debris. “If they aren’t, drain outlets will dam up and rainwater will fill the gutters, overflow, and eventually pull the gutters loose,” said Scott Cline, owner of J&B Construction. “However, when cleaned and cleared, they protect siding, windows, doors, and foundations from water damage and help prevent flooding in basements.”
Therefore, it’s important to plan on cleaning the gutters at least twice a year—more often if your roof is directly beneath trees or if you live in a region with frequent storms. But only take on this task if you can work safely from a ladder or the roof. Additionally, always remember to wear gloves to protect your hands from sharp metal and sheet metal screws. If your roof is higher than a single story, you may want to consider hiring a professional.
The first step to clean your gutters is to scoop out loose debris. “Starting at a drain outlet at the low end of a gutter, use a narrow garden trowel or a gutter scoop to remove loose debris, working away from the drain outlet,” Scott said. It’s usually easiest to do this when the debris is slightly damp and pliable, not soggy or dried and encrusted. You can scoop the debris into a plastic bucket in order to minimize cleanup later.
Second, rinse the gutters with a hose. Using an on-off high-pressure hose nozzle mounted at the end of a water hose, wash out each length of gutter, working towards the drain outlet. Be mindful that this can be a messy job, so try to avoid splattering mud all over your house. If necessary, use a stiff scrub brush to remove encrusted dirt.
Lastly, clear obstructions in drainpipes. “If water doesn’t drain freely through the drainpipes, try flushing the debris down them with a hose,” said Scott. If that doesn’t work, use a plumber’s auger (snake) to free and pull out the debris from the bottom or, in some situations, to push it through from the top.
In summary, thoroughly cleaning your home’s gutters every fall and spring will keep them working like they should. Leaves can build up and clog the downspouts, which can cause water damage to your roof and fascia (the board behind the gutter). Water pouring over the gutters or from leaks can end up next to your home’s foundation, in the basement, or crawlspace. In order to avoid such water damage, simply practice cleaning your gutters properly and regularly.