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Gutter Maintenance and Cleaning

Rain gutters play an important role in preserving a home. They protect exposed areas from water damage that could harm a house clear down to the foundation. If you are going to incur the expense of installing a good gutter system, it is equally important to maintain that system so that it works properly over many years.

When a rain gutter system becomes clogged with leaves or other debris, the water may overflow and harm the home. The fascia board, which runs horizontally along the edge of the roof and attaches to the outside wall, is a particularly vulnerable spot. Since the rain gutter attaches to the roof edge, the fascia boards are usually the first place overflowing water will corrupt. Once fascia boards become rotted, water will seep into basements, walls, and the foundation itself.

An enclosed gutter system or gutter guards generally keeps sticks and leaves from getting into gutters in the first place, but they still may need occasional checking.

General Maintenance

  • Keep an eye on downspouts to make sure that the water flowing down hits the ground at a distance from walls, basement windows, and the foundation.
  • Use caution when leaning a ladder against the gutter system as it can dent or break it.
  • Inspect your system periodically and replace missing nails or any other small parts.

Gutter Cleaning

Many homeowners dread cleaning the gutters, but it won't be become a huge job if it's done regularly. The frequency depends on the number of trees close to the home as well as climate conditions in the area. Usually once or twice a year is enough, although a high number of trees or frequent windstorms might fill the gutters more quickly and require cleaning more often.

Depending on the design of the home, gutters can be accessed from the ground or from the roof. Most homeowners pull debris out by hand, often using a garden hose to loosen it first. Garden supply and hardware stores often sell specialized tools that can also be useful, especially for reaching high gutters or to clean the gutters without a ladder.

Like most home maintenance tasks, if you don't have the time or ability, you can usually hire someone else to do the job. Many landscape companies and gutter installers offer cleaning as an additional service. In any event, it's crucial to keep gutters clear so water can flow freely out and away from the house. The money invested in maintenance will be far less than the losses you could incur from damage to your roof or your home.

Other Gutter Problems

There are other problems that affect the efficiency of gutter systems, however most ultimately occur as a result of clogging. Some of these are:

  • Freezing: In cold climates, the water caught by the gutters may freeze and block the flow. If water is still flowing down the roof it may back up under the roof and eventually damage the home.
  • Fire: There has been an increase in wild fires in some parts of the country and home fires are always a concern. Gutters clogged with leaves and other organic materials add extra fuel to a fire.