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How to Clean Gutters in the Fall

Do I need to clean out my gutters?

Cleaning out your gutters and making sure they are in good working order is an important piece of home maintenance. If there is debris left in your gutters, it can stop the path of water flow to the downspouts. Pooled water can then flow over the sides of the gutter, seeping into your roofline and draining down the side of your home, this water can seep into your foundation and cause cracking, this type of damage is why downspouts should have ends that guide the water away from your house. It is very important to maintain clear and working gutters. It is also to make sure your gutters are the correct size and material for the typical weather conditions in your area. If your area gets heavy snowfall, it is important that the gutters and gutter supports can handle the weight of the snow. 

Ladder safety for homeowners

Climbing up on a ladder always comes with a certain amount of risk, especially when cleaning your gutters. Cleaning out the gutters can be slippery and often you need to handle tools while balancing at the same time. We’ve made this ladder safety guide for homeowners to stay safe while doing jobs around the house that require a ladder. This time of year it is important to not work while there is frost on your equipment or roof, frost is very slippery. Often when the sun comes up frost does tend to melt, it is safer to work then.

Work clothes for cleaning gutters

Make sure the clothing you wear for cleaning out your gutters won’t snag on the gutters, ladder, or tools you’ll be using. Dress for cold weather and keep in mind that gutter debris is often wet at the end of fall. Wear gloves for the job, but be careful moving up and down the ladder with wet hands. Where good outdoor shoes with grip, wet leaves are extremely slippery, be sure there are no wet leaves stuck to the ladder rungs when climbing up and down.

Gutter cleaning tools

We often find that homeowners just use their hands when clearing out gutter debris. While a gloved hand works great, there are also specific tools you can buy for clearing your gutters, such as gutter scoops. Gutter Scoops are made from plastic to prevent any damage to your gutter and are designed to collect a lot of debris in one swipe. We also recommended using a hose for clearing downspouts. iRobot, the company that makes the Roomba, has developed a gutter cleaning robot. The robot is placed in the gutter and propels itself along the gutter removing debris.

Gutter cleaning process

Move along your gutter line removing debris, move your ladder often, do not try to extend your reach. Take note of any areas that seem to have a large amount of older debris, this can be a sign of a clog or damaged gutter. Try not to drop the debris in the path of your ladder, where you are moving your ladder next. When clearing out the debris make sure not to cause any dents or dings in the gutter itself.

Downspouts are the most common area for clogs

Downspouts are typically shaped with multiple angled joints to run along the side of your home and to guide water away from your foundation. These “elbows” can be problem areas for clogs. Often these clogs can be broken up by simply using the handle of a hammer (never the metal hammer head) and gently tapping above the bend to shift the debris enough to dislodge it. If it seems like there is a blockage you can use a vent brush, like you do for cleaning out your vents on your dryer. Do this on the ground, gently push the extended up the downspout, vent brushes are a good tool for this because they are flexible enough to get through the angles of the downspouts, but gentle enough to not cause any damage inside the downspout. For serious downspout clogs use the same vent brush method but with a garden hose or leaf blower.. Do not place the garden hose in the downspout on, push it up the downspout while off, if you encounter a clog that does not come loose, then turn the hose on the water pressure should break it up. When using a leaf blower, place the nozzle in the downspout while off, turn off once in place. It is important to wear eye protection since the debris is going to shower over you and could get in your eyes.

This is also a good time to make sure the downspout is doing it’s most important job, guiding water from your gutters away from your house and most importantly, away from your foundation. If water is stagnating around the end of the downspout, you may need to place a downspout splash block or add more downspout material. Your downspout should be secured to the side of your home, if you find it has come away from your siding, it is important to address that before winter.

How to check for roof and gutter damage

Don’t miss the opportunity of working at your roofline to check for any damage that could become a larger problem during the winter months. The easiest potential roof damage to spot is if you have any missing shingles or damaged shingles. This can be a very simple fix, but it does need to be addressed and not left for winter. Leaving a simple fix like that until spring could be the difference between repairing a small section of shingles to major water damage in your attic or roof. Harder to spot damage are any sections of your roof that appear to stand out slightly, either in color or shape. If you notice any areas of your roof that are darker than the rest, avoid this area, there could be damage that would not allow the roof to support your weight. Another type of damage to avoid going near is any sagging in your roof. These two types of damage need to be inspected before winter, any roofing company will come out and do a free inspection. Since inspections are always free. It’s always better to err on the side of caution, do not step on these areas and call a professional to look at them.

Your gutters are winter ready

Once all your gutters are cleared, it is important to make sure water can drain properly. Pour a bucket of water into your clean gutters and measure how much and how long it takes the water to exit the downspout. It doesn’t have to be exact, but if the water that collects at the end of the downspout is a lot less than what you poured in or if the water takes a long time to drain, you could have a blockage along your gutters where water is pooling. This could be a larger problem during winter when the water in your gutters will freeze. 

It is the time of year where newly cleaning out gutters make a perfect spot to hang holiday decorations. We made a guide for hanging up holiday decorations without damaging your roof or gutters. 

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