If you haven’t pulled out the rake yet this season, chances are it won’t be long. The leaves are already falling and leaving a crisp, colorful mess for you to clean up. But the job isn’t done once you’ve tied off the last bag of leaves from the ground -- there are sure to be plenty more stuck in your home’s gutters.
Cleaning out your gutters may feel like a hassle, but getting the job done twice a year will go a long way toward helping you avoid water damage all over your home, especially at your roof line and in your basement. Read on to learn more about what can go wrong and how to avoid serious problems.
What's the Worst That Can Happen?
All sorts of debris can land in your gutters. Usually it’s leaves, twigs and seeds, but wind-borne trash like plastic bags can easily end up jamming up the works.
When this happens, the first part of your home in danger of water damage is your roof. Pooling water in your gutters can rot your fascia, shingles and the edge of your roof line.
During heavy rains, water will eventually spill over the top of the gutter and hit the ground right next to your home. This can cause a trench to form along the edge of your home, affecting grass growth and leaving a wet, muddy mess. During the summertime, this may even attract mosquitoes and other insects that breed in water.
But the biggest problem with overtopped gutters is that the water will saturate the soil right next to your home’s foundation. This can put enormous pressure on the foundation and the walls of your basement, causing cracks that will grow over time. Basement leaks and even floods can directly result from these breaches.
Most homeowners can take care of their gutters with just two thorough cleanings each year: one in fall and one in spring. But homes with many nearby trees may need more than one cleaning in fall, and it’s important to always keep an eye on your gutters during rainfall to spot signs of clogs or overflowing.
Cleaning your own gutters is easy but messy. It also involves standing on a ladder, so it’s not a great task for those with mobility problems or a fear of heights.
To clean your gutters, begin by observing ladder safety -- make sure your ladder is placed on level ground and properly locked in place. Wear comfortable, non-slip shoes.
Hook an empty bucket to the top of the ladder to collect the debris you remove. Wear work gloves, and consider taking along a handheld garden tool like a trowel or hand rake. These can be helpful for scraping waterlogged sludge from the bottom of the gutter.
When the gutter is clear, use a hose to wash it clean and watch to ensure it’s flowing freely through the downspout. If it’s not, you have a clog in the downspout that needs clearing. Use your garden hose at full pressure to hose out the downspout from the bottom up. You might need to remove the bottom section of the downspout to do this. If the hose doesn’t work, a plumbing snake will almost always get the job done.
If gutter problems end up causing moisture issues in your basement, don’t wait to address the situation -- it will only get worse. Reach out to your licensed local plumbers without delay.