Your gutters are an essential part of your roof and they must be free of debris at all times. When gutters aren’t clean, plenty of problems can arise. Make it a goal this year to make gutter cleaning a regular part of your home maintenance. Your roof, your foundation, your home, and your bank account will thank you.
The Purpose of Gutters
Gutters are essential to the structural soundness of your home. The purpose behind gutters is to route storm and rainwater off your roof and away from the foundation of your home. Without gutters in place, the water that runs off your roof from rainstorms can easily build up around the foundation of your home. Over time, this moisture can sink into the foundation causing water damage and possibly requiring an overhaul of your foundation.
Fixing water damage caused by a lack of gutters to your foundation is much more costly than installing and keeping your gutters clean. Since most of our clients already have gutters installed, many of them ask, “When should I clean my gutters?”
How Often to Clean Your Gutters
Nobody wants to clean gutters. It can be tedious and time consuming, though it’s well worth the time and effort to prevent decay and damage to your home’s exterior and, in some cases, interior of your home.
In general, we recommend cleaning your gutters (whether you do it yourself or have it done professionally) twice per year. We typically find ourselves cleaning gutters for repeat clients in late spring and early winter.
However, a few factors come into play regarding the number of times you should clean your gutters yearly.
Factors to Consider When Deciding How Often to Clean Your Gutters
The frequency with which you need to clean your gutters will depend on several factors. The thing is, your gutters don’t just need to be cleared of leaves and debris, they also need to be inspected for damage, leaks, and other potential problems. Here are the main factors you should consider when deciding how often to clean gutters.
The Type of Climate You Live In
If you live in an area with a lot of trees you’ll need to clean your gutters more often than if you live in a desert climate. That’s because falling leaves and branches can quickly clog up your gutters preventing them from doing their job. If you live in an area with severe weather conditions, such as high winds and frequent storms, you might also need to clean your gutters more often to prevent damage.
The Type of Roof You Have
The type of roof you have will also affect how often you need to clean your gutters. If you have a shingled roof, for example, you might need to clean your gutters more often than if you have a metal roof. That’s because shingles can break off and fall into your hutters causing clogs.
The Type of Gutters You Have
The type of gutters you have will also affect how often you need to clean them. If you have seamless gutters, for example, you might get away with cleaning them only once or twice a year. Seamless gutters are less likely to leak and are easier to clean than traditional gutters. If you have standard gutters, you’ll probably need to clean them more often than someone who has leaf guards or other types of gutter protection.
Your Home’s Architecture
The architecture of your home will also affect how often you need to clean your gutters. If your home has a lot of corners and eaves for example, you’ll need to clean your gutters more often than if it has a simple roofline. That’s because debris can build up in these areas, causing clogs.
How to Clean Your Rain Gutters
Check All Safety Gear Before Starting
Climbing a ladder to clean your gutters is inherently dangerous. In addition, you’ll be dealing with sharp objects (leaves and twigs) and potentially harmful contaminants (mold and mildew). That’s why it’s important to make sure you have all the necessary safety gear before starting. This includes:
- A ladder
- Climbing safety gear (harness, etc.)
- Protective clothing (gloves, goggles, etc.)
- Long sleeve shirt
- Non-slip boots
Depending on the height you’re dealing with, you may need a fall restriction or safety harness. You see, accident falls happen to be one of the most common hazards, with over 800,000 people hospitalized per year due to fall injuries.
Work with a Spotter
If you have somebody available to help, it’s always best to have a spotter when working with heights. The spotter can provide stable footing for the ladder and also hand up any tools or supplies needed. If you don’t have anybody available to help, then take extra care when placing and climbing the ladder.
When cleaning gutters, it’s important to avoid overreaching. This is because leaning too far to one side can cause the ladder to tip over. If you must lean to reach a specific area, always do so from the center of the ladder and not from the top or bottom wings.
Consider the age of the gutters as well as their general condition. If your gutters are brand new and in perfect working order, you’ll likely have to clean them less than you would older gutters that need replacement. Sometimes you don’t need to just clean the gutters, sometimes you need to replace them. Here are a few ways to tell if it’s time to install new gutters.
- Numerous rust spots, cracks, or holes
- Missing nails or screws that you may find on the ground
- Broken fasteners
- Gutters visibly pulling away from the roof
- Peeling exterior paint
Put the Debris and Gunk in a Bucket
To make the cleaning process easier, have a bucket on hand to collect all the debris and gunk as you go. This will help reduce the mess and make it easier to dispose of the waste properly when you’re finished.
If your gutters are only slightly clogged, then you might be able to flush out the debris with a garden hose. First, remove as much of the debris as possible by hand with a small scoop. Next, attach a water nozzle to the hose and turn on the water.
Use a Gutter Scoop for Deeper Clogs
If your gutters are significantly clogged you might need to use a gutter scoop to remove the debris. A gutter scoop is a long-handled tool that looks like a giant dust bin. It’s specifically designed to reach deep into gutters and remove debris. You’ll also want to clean the downspouts at the point to ensure water can flow freely through them.
Test the Gutters
Once you’ve cleared all the debris from the gutters, it’s a good idea to test them out with a garden hose. This will help ensure that they are draining properly. If you notice any issues, then make sure to address them before calling it quits.
Treat Mold and Mildew
If you notice any mold or mildew growing on your gutters, then it’s important to treat it as soon as possible. Mix equal parts water and bleach in a spray bottle. Then simply spray the solution onto the affected area and let it sit for about 30 minutes. After that, rinse with clean water.
Inspect and Repair Any Damage
After cleaning the gutters inspect them for any cracks, holes, or other signs of wear and tear. If you find any damage, then make sure to repair it as soon as possible. Check any leaks during this process and seal them with rubber or silicone caulk. Depending on the severity of the damage you might be able to do the repairs yourself or you might need to call in a professional.
Important Things to Note about Gutter Cleaning
Trees and Foliage
Foliage can be a major thorn in the side of homeowners regarding how often to clean gutters. If you have a lot of trees around your home, chances are you’ll want to clean your gutters more than twice a year.
Instead, try cleaning once every two to three months, so you can efficiently remove the leaves and debris that could clog up your gutters, especially in the fall.
Gutter Protection System
Some houses have a gutter protection system, also known as gutter guards or screens, while others do not. Gutter guards do keep gutters cleaner overall, but this does not mean your gutters won’t require routine cleaning.
Gutter guards perform well concerning keeping large pieces of debris and foliage out of your gutter system, but smaller pieces can make their way through. Also, keep in mind that more prominent foliage may sit on top of your gutter guard causing the gutter to malfunction.
If you have a gutter protection system in place, check on it often so you don’t have any surprises pop up. It would be best if you cleaned gutters with guards and screens at least twice per year, but they may only require annual cleaning depending on other factors.
Critters like squirrels and chipmunks can plug gutters in the same fashion as trees and foliage; the only difference is that they’ll safely place acorns and other food items instead of leaves.
Birds drop sticks and various nest making materials in gutters and, on occasion, our feathered friends can build a nest right inside them. If you live somewhere where the wildlife is plentiful, you will need to check your gutters often and have them cleaned at least twice each year.
Seasonal Weather Cycles
Weather is a significant contributor to how often you need to clean your gutters. From areas with heavy rainfall to the areas that see an abundance of snow and ice, it’s crucial to stay on top of your gutter maintenance in these climates.
Ice is skilled at rendering gutters useless unless removed right away, while copious amounts of rainfall can be just as detrimental. To ensure things keep running smoothly and consistently direct water away from your home, you’ll need to make sure that ice is cleared immediately.
The Consequences of Ignoring Routine Gutter Cleaning
Though it can be tempting, ignoring the task of routine gutter cleaning can come with substantial consequences. Gutter maintenance can be easy to forget and ignore until you’re unexpectedly faced with moisture inside your home, cracked or peeling paint, and foundation issues.
However knowing the consequences of gutter neglect often helps homeowners remember to check their gutters and, if necessary, schedule a professional cleaning.
Damaged Gutters and Downspouts
The weight of the debris in your gutters can cause them to sag and pull away from your home. In addition, the water that overflows from your gutters can damage your downspouts and cause them to pull away from your home. Ignoring these problems will only worsen them and eventually lead to expensive repairs.
Water under your driveway can be just as detrimental as water underneath your crawlspace or foundation. As the water builds, shifting will undoubtedly occur causing possible damage to your driveway and walkways and presenting a tripping hazard.
Clogged gutters overflow and since that water needs somewhere to go, it will end up running down the side of your home and into your basement. An effective gutter system is one of the absolute best ways to avoid basement flooding, and to be effective they must be cleaned regularly.
If the water overflowing from your gutters isn’t able to drain away from your foundation it can saturate the ground around your home. This can damage your landscaping and lead to a host of other problems, such as:
- Foundation problems
Unwanted Pests, Bugs & Other Critters
Clogged gutters provide the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and other pets. In addition, they offer a safe haven for rodents like mice, rats, and squirrels. These pests can quickly become a nuisance and can carry diseases. They can also cause damage to your gutters and home if they build nests in your gutters or get inside your house.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons to keep your gutters in tip-top shape is to prevent foundation issues. When gutter maintenance is lacking – it doesn’t matter if you have a traditional basement, a crawl space, or if your home sits on a concrete slab – water will cause considerable damage.
When the clay, dirt, or sand that sits under and around your foundation becomes too wet, shifting occurs. That shift can cause cracks and buckling that we see in many homes with mild to severe foundation issues.
General Water Damage
Foundations aside, clogged gutters are known for causing water damage to the interior of your home, and most homeowners have no idea what’s happening until it’s too late. When water regularly runs down the side of your house, it will work its way into siding, window frames, and under flooring.
The consistent presence of water will cause bulging, bowing, and weakness within the siding, windows, and floorboards. If left unattended, this is a hazardous situation.
Algae, Mold, and Moss
Where there is excessive moisture, algae, mold, and moss will likely turn up. While mold typically shows up inside the home (where the water damage from malfunctioning gutters has been allowed to accumulate) algae and moss prefer to grow outside, both on your roof and the gutter itself.
Not only does this look terrible with respect to the exterior aesthetics of your home, but it can cause serious damage to your roof. The shingles on your roof that come in contact with consistently clogged gutters will saturate until it leaks into the insulation, causing issues within your ceilings and walls.
Rotted Siding and Fascia Boards
If water is allowed to collect against your siding or fascia boards, it can cause these component parts of your home to rot, leading to costly replacement of any rotted boards.
Find Peace of Mind with Regular Gutter Cleanings from Southern Style Soft Wash
In short, neglecting to clean your gutters can cause many other problems outside and inside your home. To avoid major issues you’ll want to have your gutters cleaned twice a year, with more frequent cleanings for those that live in very wet or cold climates and locations with plenty of trees, foliage, and critters.
Southern Style Soft Wash is a locally owned company that has served the areas of Bluffton and Hilton Head Island, SC, for many years. We are here to offer our past, present, and potential customers the best in soft washing, pressure washing, gutter cleaning, and gutter repair services.