Wednesday, December 19, 2012 by MJT Staff
When it comes to your home’s gutter system, efficiency and expected life are largely based on the ability of you –the homeowner- to keep your gutters clean and cleared of debris including tree sap, nuts, seed balls, sticks and small branches, abandoned insect hives, birds’ nests, and above all else…LEAVES!
As we are now well into the autumn season, despite your best efforts to herd those beautiful, constantly-falling leaves, they will without a doubt find their way into your gutters if they haven’t already. Left unattended, your gutters will not drain rain water correctly, often times creating a mess around your home –not to mention the eyesore of gutters stuffed with leaves.
Left through the end of the autumn season and into the winter, clogged gutters can lead to ice dams which form as snow and water attempts to make its way through your gutter system, but is halted by leaves and other such debris. Ice dams cause damage in various ways including the allowance of water, unable to drain, to leak into your house, as well as the possibility of tearing your gutters down all together due to the significant weight increase. What a nightmare!
Ideally, you should plan on cleaning your gutter system TWICE/year; once at the end of summer/beginning of autumn and again before the beginning of winter’s first snowfall. It’s important to remember that your gutter system is more than just the gutters lining your roof, it also includes the downspout. Often neglected, the downspout should be cleared as part of the gutter cleaning process. The most efficient way to clear your downspout is to start at the bottom and work your way up; this avoids the compacting of debris which occurs when starting at the top. A common plumber’s snake is perfect for accomplishing the job.
While cleaning your gutters you may encounter debris in various states. It can be very dry and caked inside the gutter walls, or very wet and soggy. Dry debris is best approached with the help of some water; ideally a garden hose, but a bucket of water will also suffice. This will break the caked debris off the walls, allowing some to drain, while the rest can be cleaned out by hand. The best way to approach soggy blockages is with a tarp or garbage bag in which you may contain the debris and avoid creating a significant mess.
Although gutter cleaning is certainly a task which may be accomplished by homeowners it is still important to remember safety first! Wear maintenance or garden gloves, especially if you are removing debris from your gutters by hand. Ensure the footing of your ladder; do not attempt to balance with any less than all 4 feet securely on the ground. If you have gutter guards in place, take the time to properly remove them before beginning to clean; improper technique can lead to broken guards or even injury.
Let us know if you have any gutter cleaning/maintenance tips to share!