Many people don’t think about cleaning their gutters until they notice a problem with them during a rainstorm or get ice dams on their roof in the winter. But like your roof it’s best to do preventative inspection, cleaning and maintenance before you run into problems.
Why it’s Important to Maintain Gutters
An accumulation of debris in your gutters not only causes water to flow incorrectly off of your roof, but can add weight to your gutters making them sag and fall apart. Standing water in your gutters also increases the chance of rust and mold on your roof.
Other problems caused by gutter issues:
Failing to maintain gutters can cause a variety of problems, some which you may not even think of.
Increases the chances of leaks
Roofing companies often get calls from panicked homeowners who have spotted a leak inside their house. The majority of these are caused by gutters stuffed with debris that are unable to properly drain water from the roof. Gravity always makes sure that this water eventually reaches the ground, but not necessarily using the route best for your house.
Can ruin landscaping
Clogged or loose gutters and downspouts will often cause rainwater to overflow and pour over the side of gutters, giving the landscape below–especially gardens–quite a beating, sometimes destroying plants or flooding beds.
Impacts your house foundation
When gutter are properly installed and working correctly, they direct rain and melting snow away from the house’s foundation and go to parts of the yard or other area around your house that is able to absorb it. When gutters are clogged or loose, the water will drip down the side of the house, creating cracks in the foundation and making its way into the basement.
Cause house siding to stain, rust or rot
If your house siding or trim is made from aluminum or wood, water from leaking gutters can cause this siding or trim to rust or rot over time. Any type of siding or trim can also become stained and streaked from water flowing down the side of the house.
Increase the chance of pests
Debris clogged gutters may still hold enough water to attract mosquitoes, flies and other pests. Standing water in your gutters attracts these pests, making time spent outside unpleasant due to the increased risk of bug bites.
Ice dams in winter
If you live in a climate that experiences colder weather, clogged gutters with standing water and debris can cause ice dams, which can also damage the roof of your house. The slower this water takes to drain, the easier it is to freeze and the longer it takes the water to disperse out of downspouts and gutters once the temperature rises above the freezing mark. Ice dams put extra weight on your gutters and can cause them to pull away from the house.
In addition, the combined weight of the debris and the ice that are stuck in the gutters can cause your gutters to sag, pull away, or even to fall. This can be dangerous, as anyone walking underneath the gutters could get hurt.
Extra weight puts a strain on your gutters
Debris–and ice–stuck in gutters can cause them to pull away, sag, or even fall. This can not only cause damage to the roof and siding of your house, but can be dangerous to anyone walking underneath these gutters.
Four times a year–once a season–when it’s raining hard go outside and see how your home is draining water of of your roof. This easy inspection can show you if there are issues with your gutters as well as let you know if there is a place where water could be damaging your home.
You will also want to do a more thorough inspection, at least two times a year. If you live in a climate where you have cold weather, make sure to do an inspection before cold season sets in. If you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, get a professional.
Make sure all gutter hangers are fastened securely, and use a carpenter’s level to check that the gutters have the proper slope and are not holding water. They should slant down toward the downspouts about 1/4” every 9 or ten feet.
If your gutters:
- are loose;
- sag in random places;
- pull away from the roof;
- are rusty and have holes;
- or have cracked or split
it is time to replace or repair your gutters before they start to cause damage to your roof or home.
Be mindful of power lines. When repairing or cleaning gutters beware of any power line cables that drop form the power pole to the roof of your house. Do a visual inspection from the ground to see where the electrical cable connects to your roof.
Once you are on the roof or ladder take a closer look–but without touching or getting too close to the cable–to see if the cable appears to have damage or is missing its protective wire insulation. If the cable appears to have damage, don’t attempt to repair it and call a licensed professional electrical contractor to fix it.
How to Make Minor Repairs to Maintain Gutters
It is common over time for rust and corrosion to cause pinholes to develop in your downspouts or gutters. These pinholes are an easy repair once you locate them and seal them to prevent further damage.
To seal the holes, you will need simple roofing cement, a wire brush and a putty knife.
- Make sure the area you are repairing is dry and clear of debris
- Clean the holes using the wire brush
- Apply a small amount of roofing cement over the pinholes
- Use a putty knife to smooth the roofing cement so debris and water can flow over it easily
For larger holes or leaks in your gutters, find out whether these holes or leaks are located at the end caps or seams.
- To repair leaks at the seams, make sure the gutter lengths are tight against each other, and run a bead of gutter sealant on both sides of all of the joints.
- To repair leaks at the end caps, add sealant along the inside of the joint.
- To repair holes in the gutter material, use roofing cement either designed to repair aluminum or fiberglass, depending on the material of your gutters.
To replace or add hangers, you will need a drill and a replacement gutter hanger kit. Installation examples are below, but make sure you follow the particular manufacturer’s instructions when replacing or adding gutter hangers.
- Install screw and ferrule hangers by marking their position on the gutter, drilling the holes into the gutter lip and fascia, then drilling the screw through the ferrule.
- Install screw-in or hidden hangers following the kit directions. Most of these hangers are attached on the rear of the gutter and into the fascia board, then clipped to the gutter inside front.
- If your roof doesn’t have fascia board, then you will have to use gutter hangers with straps, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Most strap gutter hangers involve attaching a hanger across the gutter channel, clipping a strap to the hanger, then attaching the hanger under the shingles.
Most gutter problems are caused by clogged gutters and can simply be fixed by cleaning your gutters thoroughly. This is an easy way to maintain gutters. You can do this yourself, or hire a professional to do it for you.
Since it can be dangerous to climb on a roof in freezing weather and it may damage the shingles, wait until the weather is warmer before attempting to clean your gutters or roof.
To Maintain Gutters, Clean Them!
- a ladder tall enough to reach your gutters,
- a pair of heavy work gloves (thick suede-like material is best),
- a small plastic shovel or trowel (children’s plastic yard toys are a cheap option),
- a garden hose long enough to reach the roof; and
- eye protection.
I can also be helpful to have a partner to help hold your ladder and help move it each time you need to reach a new section. If you don’t want to throw the debris on your lawn or landscaping, protective tarp and a bucket may also be called for.
To clean and maintain gutters follow these steps and start at a downspout so you can easily keep track of where you have been.
- Using gloved hands and a plastic shovel or trowel, remove debris and dump it into your bucket or onto the tarp. Work your way toward toward the opposite end, away from the downspout.
- To clean out the remaining dirt and debris, use a garden hose equipped with a spray nozzle. Once you’re positioned at the end of the gutter opposite the downspout, open flush out the gutter using the hose. The water and leftover debris should drain down the spout at the other end.
- Position the ladder near a downspout and spread a tarp under the section of gutter to be cleaned.
- Hook a bucket of tools and an empty bucket to the top of the ladder. With gloved hands and a trowel, remove large debris (leaves, twigs, etc.) and dump it into the empty bucket. Work your way toward toward the opposite end, away from the downspout.
- If the water isn’t draining, your downspouts may be clogged as well. Double check the top of your downspout. If it has a downspout strainer, it may be covered or clogged with debris. If your downspout itself is clogged, you will want to work from the ground up to clear it.
- Once you’re able to access the spout, insert your garden hose–with the spray nozzle at full pressure–up into the spout. The stream should dislodge the blockage. If it doesn’t, you may need to use something like a plumber’s snake tool to dislodge the blockage.
- Reattach or tighten any pieces that were removed or loosened while working on the downspout.
- Using the hose and nozzle attachment again, flush out the gutters a final time, working from the opposite end away from the downspout.
Once the work has been done, go out the next rainy day and inspect your gutters and spouts, to make sure that everything is cleaned and repaired properly.
If climbing around on your roof or working on ladders isn’t something you feel comfortable doing, give us a call us at 614-360-9703 or contact us for an appointment. Our experts know how important it is to maintain gutters!