Keeping your gutters clean is more important than you may think!
Gutters play an important role in diverting water away from your foundation, windows, doors and landscaping, but that’s not the most important reason to keep your gutters clean.
What to do with Clogged gutters
When your gutters are clogged and begin to overflow you may see the water coming over the front of your gutter but what you can’t see is the water that is flowing over the back of your gutters. When water flows over the back of your gutters it can enter your soffit and even worse it can enter your walls! The damage that this water will do can’t be seen until something begins to fall apart. Ihave seen many different types of damage done by overflowing gutters. The most common is when your gutters start falling off of your house and when you go to re-attach them you realize there is no solid wood left behind the gutters to attach to.
From water going in the house instead of down the spout, the most severe case I have seen was a job we performed a couple of years ago. We had to build temporary walls in a house to support the roof, then go under the house and jack up the entire rear so we could install all new floor joists because all the ends were rotten. We then had to remove rear wall and replace all the framing, insulation, sheathing, drywall and siding. All of this damage was caused by a gutter overflowing over the back, running behind the fascia board and running down the inside of the wall. All of the damage was occurring inside the wall where it could not be seen and the home owner did not realize it was happening until he went to open his bathroom window one day and the entire window fell out of the wall into the back yard. His neighbor came over to help him board up the hole in his wall but the sheathing was so rotten that they could not nail the boards to the wall. They ended up having to lean a piece of plywood up against the hole and prop up a board behind it and drive a stake in the ground to hold it in place. If he would have waited any longer to fix the problem the entire rear of the roof would have fallen into his house.
Inventions for cleaning gutters
I’ve seen a lot of inventions for cleaning gutters but they all fall short in some way. There is a scoop that is the exact shape of a gutter so you can just scoop the debris out. The problem with that is the shingles on your roof hang into the gutter and prevent you from even getting the scoop into the gutter, not to mention the spike or bracket that you will run into every 5 feet or so. There are also wands that shoot water through your gutter to clear the leaves out. The problem with that is the leaves tend to go to your downspouts and clog them up and the water isn’t powerful enough to blow out the years of dirt and shingle grit that are packed in the bottom of the gutters. The only effective way to clean gutters is with your hands. You will need to climb a ladder with a bucket, some gloves and maybe a small garden trowel. Be very careful because most falls while cleaning gutters are head first and a lot of times fatal. Take a small piece of rope up with you to tie the ladder to the gutter or if you have a ladder stabilizer they work very well. You will have to move the ladder several times so pay attention to where you have already cleaned to get the most out of your ladder placement. To clean your down spouts you can use a coat hanger or a small plumbing snake.
How to clean your downspouts.
To properly clean your downspouts you will need to loosen the debris in the elbows at the top. Most of the time you can hit the outside of the downspout repeatedly and dislodge the debris in the vertical sections. Running a hose down from the top works sometimes too but be careful of the water shooting back up into your face or getting the ladder wet and slippery.
Gutter guards can be a good solution if you do not want to clean gutters every year but in a heavy downpour the water tends to run right over the top especially on a steep roof. My personal preference is to have ground gutters or to have the landscape sloping away from the house if possible. Rain diverters on the roof can be used over doors or small gable roof dormers can be installed to divert water away from entry ways.