Autumn is upon us, and with it comes pumpkin spice lattés, football, and the beautiful, majestic colors of changing – and falling – leaves. Though it certainly is not the most enjoyable of household chores, gutter cleaning is one of the most important autumn (and spring) tasks for every homeowner. Gutter maintenance costs next to nothing, but neglecting the gutters can lead to hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in damage to the home’s roof, walls, foundation, and basement.
The Purpose of Gutters
Here in Northeast Ohio, we get upwards of 100 inches of precipitation each year, and gutters (and downspouts) serve the very important purpose of draining that precipitation from your home’s roof and directing it away from your home’s foundation. A gutter clogged with leaves, sticks, and other debris will interfere with your home’s ability to properly direct water away from its foundation, leading to severe problems that do not take long to manifest. Beyond that, a clogged gutter is the perfect home for unwanted pests, including rodents, insects, and wasps. If you can imagine how leaves and sticks prevent gutters from working properly, imagine what a hornets nest in the downspout will do.
Problems Caused by Clogged Gutters
Clogged gutters cause a myriad of problems, affecting nearly every area of your home. During the warmer months, improperly maintained gutters will cause rain during heavy storms to pour over the edge of the gutter, rather than flowing smoothly through the gutter and down the downspout, away from the home’s foundation. This heavy rain will pool at your home’s foundation, causing damage to the grading around your home and an increase in the lateral pressure on your foundation, which may lead to cracks in your basement walls and floor. At best, these cracks will make way for water intrusion, at worst, these cracks will compromise the integrity of your home’s foundation. During the colder months, melting snow, unable to drain away from the roof, collects in clogged gutters and then quickly refreezes, forming an ice dam. The melted snow that backs up behind an ice dam often leaks into the home via the roof, walls, or ceiling, not only causing water damage but also paving the way for a mold infestation in the home’s insulation or even inside the walls.
Steps to Properly Cleaning Your Gutters
We recommend homeowners clean their gutters once every spring – to clear out the abundance of fallen flowers and seeds (most notably maple helicopters) – and every autumn – to clear out fallen leaves and debris left in the wake of the summer’s storms.
Always let somebody know you will be working on a ladder or on your roof, and, in fact, this job is best done with a partner. Use a steady ladder, one rated for your weight, and ensure your ladder is safely secured before climbing up (having a buddy hold the ladder while you climb). Wear rubber soled shoes to keep your steady while you climb or as you walk around on your roof, and use safety glasses and gloves to protect your eyes and hands from whatever clogs you may encounter in the process.
Clean Off the Roof
All your hard work will be immediately undone the next time it rains if you do not clear off the debris from the roof before you begin. Use a rake or a garden hose fitted with a pistol-grip trigger spray nozzle, or even a power washer, to clear away any leaves or sticks hanging out on your roof.
Scoop Out the Gutters
Using a gutter scoop, scoop out any leaves or other debris in your gutters. Plastic tools are better than steel garden trowels because the leading edge is thin, allowing a much smoother scooping motion, and they won’t scrape the bottom of your gutters. We recommend having your buddy on the ground follow along with a compostable lawn and leaf bag to catch the leaves as you toss them down to the ground.
Unclog the Downspouts
Run a garden hose at full pressure down the downspouts. If water backs up to the top, it’s a surefire sign that your downspout is clogged. Sometimes these clogs can be cleared by simply tapping on the side of the downspout, but more tenacious clogs may require you to spray a hose up the downspout from the ground to clear it out.
If you find water damage caused by clogged gutters in or around your home, Aapex Construction & Restoration is here to help!