Winter will soon be at our backs. The advent of spring means blooming flowers, warmer weather, and sunshine, but it also signals the start of an annual homeowner’s ritual: spring cleaning. As you put away winter clothes, air out rooms, wash the windows and clean cupboards, don’t forget a vital outdoor task: cleaning your gutters (also known as eavestroughs). If Aprils showers arrive to bring May flowers, you want to be prepared.
Why Gutter Cleaning Matters
Gutters may not be top of mind when you think about your home, but ignoring them can lead to costly damage. Gutters drain the water from your roof and funnel it to the ground, preventing damage to the structure. If your gutters and downspouts are clogged, costly problems may result, including:
- Mould: Clogged gutters result in standing water. If the water can’t escape, it will stagnate and breed mold. If the mold gets inside your house, it can cause health problems for your family and affect the value of your home.
- Leaks: Standing water will eventually accumulate on the roof and soak through the shingles, causing damage in the eaves and beyond. Water collecting in your gutters can cause damage to your roof, your siding, your soffits (gutter supports) and your fascia (the metal bands surrounding the piping).
- Bugs and Critters: Decaying vegetation can attract bugs, and bugs can attract rodents interested in a good meal. Once they settle into your gutters, it’s a short step for them to creep into your house itself. No one wants an infestation of mice or other rodents.
- Foundation Cracks: If your downspout is blocked, water can seep into your basement, ruining the foundation of the house as well as items you store below ground level.
- Swampy Gardens: Gutters that aren’t draining properly can also lead to too much water. Water can collect on your lawn or in your garden, destroying vegetation.
Regular inspection and maintenance can prevent damage and protect the value of your home.
How Often Should You Clean your Gutters?
Experts generally recommend that you clean your gutters twice a year, both in the spring and the fall. However, the frequency of gutter maintenance depends on the climate. If you live in a hot, dry desert climate and there are no plants near your home, a gutter cleaning once a year may be enough. However, if you live in a wooded area or if your home is surrounded by trees, you may need to clean your gutters three or four times a year.
How To Clean Your Gutters
If you aren’t handy, you may want to consider hiring a professional to clean your gutters. It will be money well spent.However, if you have a do-it-yourself mentality, it’s not difficult to clean gutters, even though it may be time consuming. First, gather the following items and tools:
- Gloves: Sharp objects may collect in the gutter, so protective gloves are a must to prevent cuts and scrapes.
- Safety Goggles: If debris goes flying, you want to make sure your eyes are protected.
- Dust Mask: Prevent yourself from inhaling any dust emanating from the gutter.
- Garden Trowel: A gardening staple can do double duty by helping scoop debris from the gutter.
- Drop Cloth: Spreading a ground cloth will allow you to easily collect the debris you shovel out of the gutters.
- Ladder: Unless you are 5 metres tall, you’ll need to do a bit of climbing to reach the gutters. You may want to work from the roof, rather than from a ladder.
- Spotter: Don’t risk falling off the ladder; make sure someone is there to stabilize it for you.
- Garden Hose: Running water is helpful in assessing blockages inside the gutters.
First, use the hose to run some water through the gutter to see where debris collects and blockages occur. Gather the dirt and debris that collect and dump them on the drop cloth below. Once your gutters are clear, run more water and look for leaks or other problems.
How to Fix Gutter Problems?
Cleaning your gutters may uncover some problems with your gutters. A number of them can be easily fixed; for others, you may need to call a professional. Common problems include:
- Sagging Gutters: Standing water can cause your gutters to sag. You can easily remedy this problem by tightening or replacing the supports holding them in place.
- Leaking Seams: To fix drips, clean and dry the affected area and use a silicone caulk to seal the inside and outside of the seam.
- Holes in the Gutter: Smaller holes can be patched by spreading roofing cement over the affected area with a putty knife. For larger holes, place a layer of cement over the hole, followed by a sheet metal patch. Top the patch with another layer of roofing cement.
Don’t neglect your gutters. Your home will thank you for it.