HomeownerEducational: A-M

Gutter Cleaning

Gutter Cleaning

Signs Your Gutters Need Cleaning

Sagging, leaking, or overflowing gutters are often a result of poor gutter maintenance and are telltale signs that your gutters are in need of a good cleaning. Improper gutter maintenance can lead to a variety of problems, including flooding and water damage to fascia, basements, and foundations.

Sagging gutters. Too much weight inside your gutters can cause them to sag or pull away from your home. Sagging often occurs when there is a buildup of debris inside the troughs. Gutters may also pull away from the home when the surrounding wood rots or the hangers that secure the gutters to the fascia have become damaged or bent. This problem can often be solved by readjusting, replacing, or fixing any malfunctioning hangers or spikes. A gutter cleaning professional may have the necessary tools for these repairs; however, it might ultimately be more cost effective to replace a failing gutter system.

Leaking gutters. Leaks can occur at loose seams, corroded areas, or holes or cracks in the gutter material. In dry weather, it may be difficult to detect leaks, but by watching your gutters work during a rainstorm (or by simply pouring a bucketful of water into the gutter trough) you can spot compromised seams and holes easily enough.

Debris caught under a seam is also evidence that a leak is present or developing in that spot. Leaky seams should be taken apart, cleaned, and then rejoined with a bead of fresh sealant. Holes, which usually result from rust corrosion, can be patched with an appropriately sized piece of metal flashing and a generous dollop of roofing cement.

Overflowing gutters. Gutter overflow usually occurs when the gutter troughs are too small, the gutters are full of debris, or the slope of the gutters is off. If the slope of the gutters is the cause of overflowing, a chalk line and a leveling tool can be used to confirm the exact pitch of the gutters. Ideally, gutters should slope downward toward a downspout at a rate of about a half inch for every twenty feet.

Gutter debris. Gutters frequently collect debris consisting of leaves, pine needles, seeds, catkins, twigs, and granules from shingles. In fact, seeds that have fallen into the gutter trough during springtime will often grow into adult plants there if not uprooted during cleaning.

Clogged downspouts. Downspouts are the pipes that lead water out of your gutters and away from your house. They can become blocked by leaves, pine straw, or other debris, causing your gutters to overflow.

Gutter Cleaning Methods

Professional gutter cleaning companies will likely employ one of several methods to clean your home’s gutters. Some companies use a vacuum system to remove the leaves and other debris, while others use a high-powered pressure washing system. Others may hand clean the debris out of the gutters and blow or flush out the downspouts. Before any work starts, ask the contractor about their plan for debris removal. Some companies will haul away the material removed from the gutters, but others do not—or will perform that service for an additional fee.

Gutter Maintenance

When to clean. Gutter cleaning should be done a minimum of twice a year: once in spring, after heavy storms and flowering plants have spread their seeds, pods, and buds; and once in late fall, after the leaves have fallen. It is best to check your gutters regularly all year to ensure water is flowing properly.

Safety. The heights involved make gutter cleaning dangerous. To ensure their safety, professionals have special training as well as the proper equipment, such as ladders with levelers. Any company working at your home should carry both workers’ compensation insurance and liability insurance. This is especially true for gutter cleaners; damage to property is always a possibility.

Debris removal. Only some companies haul away the debris removed from gutters. Debris removal typically increases the cost, so when comparing rates, make note of how each company will handle the debris.

Additional costs. When hiring a gutter cleaning contractor, be aware of other factors that may influence the cost of the project, like the distance of the gutters from the ground, the size of the job, the slope and type of roof, and any complications posed by the landscaping layout.

Gutter Covers

To reduce the amount of debris that collects in your home’s gutters through the seasons, consider having gutter covers installed. A gutter cover is a smooth piece of curved, painted metal installed over the top of the gutter to keep out leaves and other debris. When it rains, water flows down the roof onto the cover. The design draws the water around and underneath the cover and into the gutter; leaves and other debris, which do not adhere to the cover’s surface, fall to the ground.

A number of gutter covers are on the market, and they all operate on the same basic principle. Gutter protection systems are often more expensive than conventional gutters, but many products come with extended warranties that protect the homeowner from having to pay for repairs or cleanings if the system were to break down or a clog were to occur.

Gutter covers are sometimes less effective in an area of the roof with a steep valley. Unless diverters or other correcting devices are installed, the large amount of water flowing down the valley during a heavy rain can still overshoot the gutters.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that adding a gutter cover system to your home does not necessarily mean that your gutters will be completely maintenance-free. Your gutters should still be inspected periodically—either by you or a professional—to ensure that the gutter troughs and downspouts are clear and in good condition and that there are no signs of damage.

Gutter Cleaning Companies

Before signing a contract or allowing any work to begin, be sure to discuss the details of the job with the contractor you choose. Understand which cleaning method (or combination of methods) they plan to use, how long they estimate the job will take, and what they will do with the debris afterward.

While gutters can be installed almost year-round, gutter cleaning should be done at key points during the year. For this reason, it is important to plan ahead when it comes to gutter maintenance services. Do your best to schedule your gutter cleaning service appointments well in advance to ensure that debris is not allowed to accumulate for months on end.