Tip of the Week

How to Clean Your Gutters – 101

Written by Fast Window Cleaning on 01-Oct-2015, in categories: Tips

The Role of Gutters

Gutters have a sole purpose in your home: to manage the water near your house, by directing runoff away from your house and driveway, into places where it can safely drain without causing damage to walls, foundations, basements, windows and doors.

This is the reason why gutter cleaning is essential for London‘s weather conditions, and can save you a lot of money and trouble if done right and on time.


Effects of Clogged Gutters

Clogged gutters lead to big and expensive home repairs.

Besides the annoying waterfalls pouring off the roof in rainy days or the pretty but dangerous icicles that hang around in the winter seasons, damaged gutters can lead to serious problems that will require extensive and expensive reparations.

1. Weight Problem

Gutters filled up with twigs, leaves or any other kind a debris pose a weight problem.

That debris will act as a sponge to the rain water and will become heavy. The added weight will push the gutters and the brackets used to hang them and, in the end, will pull the gutters off.

This can turn into a need to replace the gutters and any other elements they might smash when they fall.

2.   Rotten Wood

Wet wood rots and this causes a loss of integrity for the fascia around the house, as well as the roof sheathing and framing beyond the fascia.

3.   Ice Damming

Built up water will freeze at low temperatures, causing frost-heave.

The frozen water will push against the roof structure and will eventually cause cracks in the foundation walls.

This type of damage can also lead to mold in your home and it’s not that easily detectable.

4.   Leaking Basements

Most commonly, gutters drain toward the bottom exterior of the house.

If they are clogged up, the excess water will collect around the basement and eventually it’ll leak in.

The consequences can be extremely dangerous because leaking basements can results in gas leaks, electrical shock and various pollutants in your home.

5.   Animals and Wood Destroying Insects

Dammed areas attract bugs, birds, and even mice.

Bugs are extremely attracted by moisture so you can find yourself needing to handle an infestation with carpenter ants, roaches, mosquitoes and even termites.

6.   Sidewalk and Driveway Damage

Aside from a slippery sidewalk or driveway, which is in itself and extremely dangerous thing, excess water and ice can also cause damage such as sagging and cracking.

7.   Washed Out Landscaping

Over-watered plants and trees can turn dull and die, turning all your landscaping effort into a waste of time and money.

Frequency of gutter cleaning

The common recommendation is to have your gutters cleaned 2 times a year, usually in the spring and fall.

As a general rule, you should check the water drainage system, including the down spouts, at least twice a year.

There are some factors that might increase the frequency of removing the debris accumulated:

  • after a severe storm which blew twigs, leaves or other objects on your roof
  • if you have trees with branches that drop leaves onto your roof
  • if you have pine trees you should increase the frequency to 4 times a year because pine trees shed a lot
  • if the house is positioned downhill from other houses or buildings because the debris that gathers on the roofs gets easily blown onto your roof and accumulates at a more rapid rate.

In order to minimize the frequency needed for this activity you can install gutter protection systems, flush out downspouts to avoid debris build-up inside of them and check out to be sure everything is aligned properly and lies flush against your eaves to make sure gaps won’t become receptacles for rubble.

Gutter guards are not foolproof solutions that allow you to skip the cleaning once and for all but they allow you to increase the period between cleanings. You have to check them periodically because pine needles and leaves can lodge in them and small particle debris can still filter through, causing serious issues.

Shielding gutters won’t prevent leaks and won’t keep hangers from becoming loose so you’ll have to keep an eye out for this as well.


How to Tell if You Need Gutter Cleaning

  1. On rainy days
  • wait for the rain to start and go check if there’s water flowing from the downpipe;
  • if it’s not starting to flow very soon after the start of a heavy rain you’ll know for sure that there’s something causing a blockage.
  1. On clear days
  • check for signs of streaking or mold in the places where the gutters may overflow
  • Also make sure to check the sidings for discolorations, this is usually a sign of water leaks
  • another method is to use a long garden hose spray that can reach the roof and mimic heavy rain conditions, by spraying water on the roof and then checking to see if the water flows down the system after it fills the gutters

101 – How to Clean Gutters on Your Own

To avoid any mishaps of downright accidents, you have to follow some basic steps:

  1. Safety first
  • if you are not comfortable with height or you’re not accustomed to using tall ladders on a regular basis, you might be better off hiring an expert. The same recommendation applies if the roof is higher than a single story.
  • if you decide to do this on your own, watch out for hidden hazards such as bee’s nests or electric lines
  • be sure to let someone know that you’ll be using a ladder to work on your building’s roof.
  • always chose a safe, sturdy ladder that you can place on a firm level base; it’s not safe to work from your rooftop instead of opting for a ladder because you can easily slip off.
  1. Choosing the right ladder for the job
  • the first step when using any type of ladder is to inspect it for defects, dents or loose parts
  • the best option would be a sturdy ladder with a small shelf that can support a five-gallon bucket; this will prove extremely helpful because you’ll easily collect and deposit the debris
  • for single-story structures you can chose a four-legged ladder; extension ladders are ideal for taller structures.
  • the sturdiest ladders are the ones from fiberglass; the main disadvantage is the fact that they are heavy and if you work for extended periods of time, moving it from one place to another because extremely tiring; if that’s the case you can opt for aluminium ones
  • if you opt for an extensive ladder, make sure the extension-hinge arms are fully extended and locked in place; if you must lean it against a gutter, protect the gutter by placing a short piece of 2 by 4 inside it.
  • always stand on the ladder with your hips between the rails and never lean out over the sides or you’ll risk losing balance; also, never stand on the top two rungs
  1. The right outfit for the job
  • pull out some old clothes, work gloves and safety glasses or goggles
  • heavy work gloves will protect your hands from sharp metal parts, rotting leaf debris that contains bird and squirrel dropping ridden with bacteria
  • cotton gloves will soak up the dirty water and won’t protect your skin from bacteria exposure; rubber ones can be easily torn by metal shards
  • eye protection is essential because you’ll never know what might fly out of the drain pipe when cleaning the gutters, from birds to frogs, wasps and bees leaving at a high speed once you start removing a clog so you’ll want to avoid any eye injury
  1. Start by cleaning off the roof
  • rake the leaves and debris off of the roof so you won’t have it washed down into the gutters at the next heavy rain.
  • if you skip this step the rubble might lead to water damming around the chimney or near the HVAC equipment, causing erosion and roof leaks over time.
  1. Use a gutter scoop
  • remove the gutter guards and then use the gutter scoop (you can buy it from any hardware store) to get rid of the debris.
  • start from the drain outlet at the low end of a gutter and use a narrow garden trowel to scoop out loose debris
  • opt for a plastic scooping tool because the front scooping edge is usually very thing and adapts to the bottom of the gutter trough, making it easy to scoop out even the toughest type of debris from any size gutter system
  • metal scooping tools might scratch or damage the bottom of the gutter, introducing areas to rust or speeding up the rust process of there’s rust there already
  1. Inspect loose sections or elements
  • look out for leaks, holes or cracked caulking;
  • you’ll have to fix these immediately in order to avoid further and extensive damage later in the season.
  • if you encounter loose gutter sections make sure to tighten and secure them (make this easier by having a supply of long lag bolts to replace missing gutter spikes; these won’t pull out like spikes so you’ll have a long-term solution)
  1. Blast out the gutters with a hose
  • opt for an on/off high-pressure nozzle hose and wash out each length of gutter, working toward the drain outlet
  • a pistol-grip trigger will make it easier to adjust the water pressure by using just one hand and can easily be hung over the front edge of the gutter while you move the ladder or use a scooping tool.
  • spray a few inches away from the gutter at a 45 degree angle to avoid any kind of damage, towards the downspout
  • if there are clogs that the high-pressure water won’t clear, use a plumbers snake to clean them out. if that’s not enough you can disassemble the downspout and remove the clog.
  1. Repairs
  • make sure all of the hangers are fastened and that the gutter have the required slope to function properly and not hold water. for this to happen they should slant in a downwards direction, toward the downspouts, at about 0,6 cm for every 3 meters.
  • if a section sags, mark it with a chalk line on the fascia and remove the hangers from that area. lift the gutter up and reposition the hangers to hold it in place. take into consideration that water is heavy so gutters should have a hanger every 5 cm and one within 2,5 cm of the seams.
  • when the gutters are secure and have the correct slope, you can check them for leaks by running water through them with a hose. if there are any leaks mark them and wait for the gutter to be completely dried out before using gutter sealant to patch them. another type of material you can use is caulking or roofing cement, there are specially formulated self-sticking patches for damaged areas.
  • if sealing a joint won’t stop the leak, disassemble the join, clean the two parts and then put them back together by using the sealant.
  1. Maintenance
  • raking roof leaves reduces the risks of clogging
  • depending on the age of your home you might need to invest in new gutters; newer models are treated for rust prevention to make them last longer
  • check them at least twice a year
  • make sure the downspouts expel the water away from the house. if not, add some downspout extenders to make sure you won’t get water damage to your foundation or sidewalk
  • check downspouts for rust, peeling paint, leaks and make sure they are tight into place against the fascia boards.

Knowing exactly what to do, when to do it and how is essential when it comes to such activities because it can help you avoid any major and expensive house repairs.

If you feel overwhelmed by this process you should consider hiring an expert. This way you might save some time and money by making sure everything is functioning properly.