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Cleaning your gutters is one of the most tedious and disgusting home maintenance chores you can do, and thankfully getting into a gutter cleaning routine twice per year is typically all you’ll need. It’s usually dirty, you’re moving the ladder a lot, you’ll likely get wet from flushing the gutters, and it’s not exactly something you can show off once you’re done. Not doing it regularly, though, can have disastrous results. If the gutters are too full, water can damage the roofing and the boards behind the gutters.
Overfull gutters can spell trouble below deck as well, causing seepage into your foundation and possibly into your basement or crawlspace. The torrents can also do a number on your garden beds if they’re right under the gutters.
Protect your home for years to come with these tips on how to keep your gutters clean and functional. You’ll thank yourself when the rain is pouring if you were proactive with cleaning – making a plan now can help save you a headache down the line.
Twice a year — once each in the spring and fall — is the recommended timing for cleaning your gutters. However, if you have many trees in your neighborhood, more regular maintenance may be necessary (even if it’s just to remove a downspout clog after a heavy rainstorm). It’s far more pleasant to wait until your gutters are dry to clean them out – that’s why it’s important to make a plan before it’s too late. Otherwise the gutters are quite mucky, which makes them harder to de-gunk. It’s also not a bad idea to check your gutters before you’re forecasted to get a big storm. Better to do a quick 10-minute spot check than to watch helplessly as rainwater pours over the gutters and into your garden and foundation.
TIME IT RIGHT
A QUICK GUIDE TO GUTTER CLEANING
Don’t attempt to clean your gutters from the roof, as you’d be turning this chore into a needlessly dangerous proposition. A ladder is going to be your best bet. Make sure you’re following best practices for ladder safety; cleaning out gutters is a simple task but it can quickly go awry if you aren’t paying attention. Perhaps most pertinent for this particular chore: don’t reach out further than is safe to do. It’s easy to think you can lean out as far as your body will take you, since it means moving the ladder less, but remember, keep your waist between the rails. Don’t contort yourself trying to get an extra few inches; the risk isn’t worth it. Since you’re moving the ladder on potentially unsteady lawns and gardens, also be sure you have stable and even footing; get a spotter if needed and always maintain three points of contact with the ladder.
If you’re using an extension ladder, it’s a good idea to get what’s called standoff stabilizers. These will prevent the ladder from lying on the gutters themselves, which can cause damage.For collecting the debris (rather than leaving it scattered about your property), you can lay out a tarp underneath your gutters and just move it along with you as you move the ladder. If using an A-frame ladder, it’s also easy to use a bucket with a handle, which can be attached to one of the built-in hooks on the top of most ladders.
USE STANDOFF STABILIZERS
Using a small garden trowel, or just your hands with a pair of good gloves, scoop out the leaves and sediment, starting at the downspout. In my experience, your hands are a better tool for this job. They’re just all around more maneuverable; getting downspout clogs loosened is far easier with hands than a trowel.
When you’ve cleaned as much as you safely can in one spot, move the ladder on down and repeat the process with all your gutters. Once you’ve got all that you can with your hands, use a hose to flush the finer debris, starting at the end opposite the downspout. Let it run for a minute, and ensure that water is coming cleanly through the spout. If it’s just trickling, you know you still have a clog. In that case, run the hose at high pressure right into the downspout to clear it.
If you’re not the handy type, there are several options for alleviating this chore altogether. Some pre-planning and investment can really save you time when things get rainy in your backyard.
Gutter whiskers and other insert-type products simply lie in the gutters themselves and prevent leaves and other gunk from building up – however, they’re rather expensive. Mesh guards are far cheaper, and act as a netting over the gutters. Yet another DIY option are snap-in plastic covers, but you have to ensure that your gutters are compatible before committing to buying them for your entire home.
GET THAT GUNK OUT