An inch of rainfall doesn’t sound like much. But when it falls on an average-size roof, it adds up to a 1,900-gallon torrent sluicing off the eaves. That’s an awful lot of water that can cause an awful lot of damage if your gutters aren’t up to the task of controlling it. Yet we barely give gutters a second thought until they’re clogged and overflowing, or ripped from their moorings by ice and snow.
If you’re starting fresh, there is a veritable deluge of shapes, sizes, and materials to choose from. Aside from pricey, maintenance-heavy wood troughs and short-lived vinyl ones, the best option for most of us is metal—elegant copper, understated zinc, rugged steel, or affordable aluminum. Metal gutters are durable and need relatively little care.
- Gutter: Captures water shedding off roof.
- End cap: Closes end of gutter.
- Fascia bracket: Attaches to eaves; supports gutters from below.
- Downspout: Conveys water from gutter to ground. Also known as a leader.
- Downspout bracket: Secures downspout to side of house.
- Elbow: Changes direction of downspout.
How To Clean Your Gutters
Thoroughly cleaning your home’s gutters every spring and fall will keep them working like they should. Leaves can build up and clog the downspouts, which can cause water damage to your roof and fascia. Water pouring over the gutters or from leaks can end up next to your home’s foundation, in the basement or crawlspace.
Cleaning your gutters is one of the un-sexiest home maintenance chores you can do. It’s usually dirty, you’re moving the ladder a lot, you’ll likely get wet from flushing the gutters, and it’s not exactly something you can show off once you’re done. Not doing it regularly, though, can spell trouble for your home. If the gutters are too full, water can actually damage the roofing and the fascia.
Overfull gutters can spell trouble below deck as well, as water pouring over the gutters versus going cleanly down the spouts can mean water getting to your foundation, and possibly into your basement and crawlspace. The torrents can also do a number on your garden beds if they’re right under the gutters.
While it’s a simple task, below I offer a few reminders and perhaps a couple new ideas on how to keep your gutters clean as a whistle, and thus protect your home for years to come.
Twice a year — once each in the spring and fall — is the recommended amount and timing for cleaning your gutters. In my neighborhood though, we have plenty of trees, meaning I’m doing it much more than that. After a big storm, or even just a couple months of wind and rain, I’m up there cleaning them out, even if it’s just to remove a downspout clog. And in the fall alone I do it a couple times as well with the bevy of leaves we get.
It’s far more pleasant to wait until your gutters are dry to clean them out. Otherwise they’re quite mucky, which makes them harder to de-gunk. It’s also not a bad idea to check your gutters before you’re forecasted to get a big storm. I’ve sat in my dining room and watched the rainwater pour over the gutters and into the garden and foundation, which I probably could have prevented by doing a quick 10-minute sweep of even just the spots near the downspouts. Better to do this chore too much and keep your foundation safe than not enough.
Using a small garden trowel, or just your hands with a pair good gloves, scoop out the leaves and sediment, starting at the downspout. In my experience, your hands are a better tool for this job. They’re just all around more maneuverable; getting downspout clogs loosened is far easier with hands than a trowel.
When you’ve cleaned as much as you safely can in one spot, move the ladder on down and repeat the process with all your gutters. Once you’ve got all that you can with your hands, use a hose to flush the finer debris, starting at the end opposite the downspout. Let it run for a minute, and ensure that water is coming cleanly through the spout. If it’s just trickling, you know you still have a clog. In that case, run the hose at high pressure right into the downspout to clear it.
If you’re not the home handyman kind of guy, there are several options for alleviating this chore altogether. There’s a better system available, one that also prevents the clogs that make standard gutters ineffective and eliminates the need for dangerous or pricy gutter cleanings one or more times a year.
Gutter Protection Systems
Gutter protection systems are designed to keep your gutters clear of the debris that can drift in and jam up your gutters. .Leaves, twigs, and other debris falls from above and blows in the wind, landing on your roof and getting washed right into your gutters during the next downpour. Here it sits, piling up, until your gutters are so clogged that you’ve got a virtual waterfall pouring down from the eaves.
This is exactly what your gutters are supposed to prevent. It’s essentially a cover for your gutters that features a ribbed surface and a patented nose-forward edge designed to passively channel rainwater into the gutter while encouraging leaves and other debris to slide harmlessly off the edge of the roof. In short, it’s the perfect solution for any home that perennially requires gutter cleaning due to a glut of leaves, twigs, and debris.
What are the Benefits?
Cleaning your gutters can be a dirty and downright dangerous job. Installing a gutter protection system can reduce your misery, or alternately, the ongoing expense of hiring someone to clean your gutters annually or even seasonally. In addition to eliminating clogs it will help you to avoid subsequent damage like pooling and flooding around the foundations of your home, landscape erosion, and the onset of harmful mold and rot. You’ll also keep insect, rodent, and other pet infestations at bay. An expert roofer Ambler PA could give you the best tips to help you avoid cleaning out you gutters.