Gutter Cleaning, Care and Maintenance

Gutter cleaning is an easy thing to put off: out of sight, out of mind. But, if you don't adhere to a year-round gutter maintenance schedule, you can end up with a ruined house. Once you make a schedule and start abiding by it, cleaning your gutters can be a snap.

Damage from Debris
Most debris that lands on the roof of your home ends up in the gutters, clogging them.  Water will seep over the sides of clogged gutters and onto the house, damaging the surfaces it travels over, including siding. Eventually, this runoff may cause serious damage to the foundation of the house. But that's not the only problem that debris can cause.

Metal gutters that are filled with debris and water can rust, and plastic gutters can crack-especially in winter when water-filled gutters freeze. Gutters heavy with rainwater and debris can pull away from the house and become loose. Because water can slide past a loose gutter, broken gutters do not protect your home. Worse, loosened gutters can fall and injure someone in your family or a passerby.

Gutter Inspections
Gutters should be inspected following every rain, any time snow or ice builds up on the roof and in the gutters, when leaves and seedpods are falling and as often as needed throughout the remainder of the year. Do not erroneously believe that rainwater will wash out all debris.

When you inspect the gutters, look for debris build-up. If it looks like a collection of leaves has started making its home along the gutter, you may need to start cleaning. Also check the flow of water through the gutter to ground. If water flows freely, your gutters don't need to be cleaned. The last thing you should check is the fastenings holding the gutters to the house. Are they loose? If so, replace them.

Gutter Cleaning
A thorough cleaning should be performed at least twice a year: in the spring and again in the fall. If possible, rent a power washer and hose down the roof, moving all debris such as tree dirt, leaves, seed pods and twigs into the gutters. Once the debris is off the roof and in the gutter, wash the debris from the gutter with a power washer or hose.

If you rent a power washer, take advantage of it and power wash the entire house and garage while you're at it. If you don't want to do the job yourself, there are a variety of power washer companies to choose from.

To clean, set the ladder against the house. Make sure the legs are on solid ground and the ladder is in place. (Never grab the gutters for support.) Put on gloves and hard hat and climb to the roof. If debris is caught in the gutters, clean out whatever you can with your hands. Have your partner-also wearing protective gloves and hard hat-hand the hose to you. Insert the hose into the gutter and wash the remaining dirt and debris into the downward spout. At ground level, your partner will be able to tell if and when the entire clog or loose debris has exited the downward spout. A plumbing snake will come in handy to remove any backed up debris or clogs that do not break up with water alone.

Painting Gutters
Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your gutters is to apply a coat of paint. Painting prevents metal gutters from rusting and keeps them looking nice. There should never be a need to paint plastic gutters.

Painting requires some additional planning and a bit of elbow grease. After you clear the gutters, scrap away any peeling paint, then wash the entire gutter-inside and out-to ensure the primer will stick. This can be a messy job and not easy to accomplish if grime has been allowed to accumulate in the gutter for a long time. Use dish soap and big sponges.

Once the gutters are clean, thoroughly rinse away soap residue. Prime the gutters. Cover with a layer of topcoat about 48 hours after priming. Galvanized metal can react to paint adversely if not treated properly, so it is important that priming is thoroughly applied and that several applications of topcoat paint are layered over the primer. (When in doubt, consult a professional paint store for advice.)

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