Gutters are part of your roofing system and they require regular maintenance to keep your home looking nice—and to help prevent damage from the elements. By directing rainwater away from the perimeter of your home, gutters are the first line of defense against water seeping into your house. So if your gutters are clogged with debris or not in operative shape, they will not function properly, potentially resulting in water damage to your home.
Your gutters need to be cleaned out on a regular basis.
Clogged gutters can cause all kinds of issues with your home. Here are a few common examples:
Water damage: Properly functioning gutters direct water away from the structure of your home. But, clogged gutters can cause water to collect around your foundation and, as a result, seep into your basement.
Loosened gutters: The Association for Homeowners Across America says that the weight of water, twigs and other debris can loosen gutters and cause them to pull away from their attachments.
Ice dams: If you live in an area where it freezes during the winter, your clogged gutters can cause ice dams. An ice dam is when water flows over the edges of a clogged gutter and then freezes, forcing water into your home. Home improvement expert Bob Vila warns that ice dams can become so heavy they can rip the gutter right off your home, resulting in costly repair bills.
Vermin: Clogged gutters can become an inviting home to carpenter ants, mosquitoes and even rodents. And, if these pests are living in your gutters, there's a chance they'll make their way into your home.
The National Center for Healthy Housing recommends cleaning your gutters at least twice a year, in the spring and in the fall, although it may be a good idea to check them for debris more frequently. However, if you experience any of the following conditions, you might consider altering the frequency:
Hot, dry desert conditions: If you live in the desert, or in an area without any foliage or plants near your home, you may only need to clean your gutters once a year. But, you should defer to the advice of a licensed professional.
Woods: If your house is surrounded by lots of trees, your gutters may need cleaning more frequently. You should talk to a professional about the best plan to make sure they are cleaned often enough.
Snow, ice conditions: If you have snow on your roof and notice any ice dams and leaks, you should call a professional to remove the debris or fix the leak. It's simply too dangerous for you to attempt to remove ice dams or fix leaks in a slippery environment.
Since cleaning your gutters requires you to get on a ladder, it's always safest to leave this job to a licensed professional. There are many companies that specialize in gutter cleaning, and professionals have the knowledge and training to safely clean your gutters and downspouts, as well as checking for and repairing misalignment, leaks or damage.
But, if you do decide to clean your gutters yourself, always remember to put safety first. Here's what you need:
- Gloves: Hand protection is critical due to possible sharp objects in the gutter.
- Dust mask: Dried, clogged gutters will be very dusty; you don't want to breathe this dust.
- Safety goggles: Debris may fly back at you when cleaning, so wearing safety goggles is a must.
- Ladder: A ladder is needed to access the gutters. (And you should always have someone nearby to hold the ladder.)
- Garden trowel: It is used to scoop out the debris
Safely set up the ladder to access your gutter. Put on the gloves, dust mask and safety goggles. Begin scooping out the debris with the garden trowel. Some debris may be stuck, and it will take some effort to remove it. Be careful not to damage the gutter. After the debris is removed, use a garden hose to wash out the remaining dirt.
If you are uncomfortable with heights or ladders, or notice damage to your gutters, call a roofing professional.
Need help remembering to clean your gutters? Sign up for the Allstate Maintenance Reminder.