Why is it important to keep your gutters clean?
Gutters are one of the most overlooked parts of a home’s exterior, but they have one of the most important jobs: directing the flow of rainwater away from your house. Improper water flow can cause a variety of problems.
- Poor drainage can result in roof rot, causing serious structural damage
- Water pooling or flowing toward your house can seep into the foundation and cause it to crack
- Water pouring off gutters can cause soil erosion and destroy your yard
- Standing water breeds mosquitos and other pests
Neglecting your gutters can cost you thousands of dollars in costly roof and home repairs. Thankfully, most maintenance and repair is something you can do yourself with the right tools and preparation.
How often should you check your gutters?
Generally, you should inspect and clean your gutters twice a year: before winter after all the leaves have fallen and after spring. If you live in a more heavily wooded area, your gutters will need more frequent inspection and cleaning. If you live in a cold climate, monitor gutters through the winter for ice dams and clear immediately to avoid damage.
How to maintain your gutters
Step 1: Gather your tools.
Ensure you have a sturdy ladder that is long enough for you to comfortably reach your gutters but does not lean on the gutters themselves.
Other items you might need:
- Trowel, putty knife or other scraping tool to remove debris
- Bleach/water mix to clear moss and lichen
- Garden hose or bucket of water to test water flow
- Plumber’s snake to remove clogs
- Screens to prevent future clogs
- Caulk to repair leaks
- Replacement rivets, spikes and hangers, and splash blocks
- Sanding cloth to remove rust
- Primer and paint to cover rusted areas
Step 2: Clean debris from gutters and downspouts
Remove any gutter covers or screens, then use a trowel, putty knife or other scraping tool to remove debris. Scrape out the bottom of each section of gutter and look for moss or lichen growth. They can be cleaned away with a 50-50 mix of bleach and water.
Step 3: Remove any clogs
Once a length of gutter is cleaned, check the flow with a garden hose or bucket of water. Watch for slow water at the downspouts and use a plumber’s snake to remove any clogs. You may want to install a screen at every downspout connection to reduce future clogs.
Step 4: Replace missing or broken hangers
Check all the spikes or hangers that attach the gutter to your roof. Loose spikes probably worked their way out of the rafters and will need to be replaced. Place new hangers in a different spot than the old ones, since worn holes in the rafters will not secure the gutter.
Step 5: Check for leaks
Run water through sections of the gutter with your garden hose or bucket of water. You could discover leaks along the gutter, at the endcaps or at connections. Repair holes with an exterior caulk, replace leaking endcaps and replace loose or missing rivets at leaky connections.
Step 6: Remove rust
Older gutters may have rust spots. Remove rust by sanding with an emery cloth, then cover spots with an outdoor primer and finish with a weather-resistant paint.
Step 7: Inspect splash blocks
The splash blocks are located underneath the downspouts and are used to guide the water that comes out of your downspout away from your house. Test that they are working as intended and replace as necessary.
Tip: Builders sometimes install the blocks backwards because a flood of rainwater too early could destroy new grass seed/growth. Many homeowners don’t realize or forget that they need to turn the blocks back around!