You recently bought a home — congratulations!
Being a new homeowner comes with its own set of excitement and challenges. It’s a constant balance of wanting to protect your investment — it’s likely one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make, after all — and spending money for maintenance and upgrades at the right time.
But when you need to consider things like your roof, gutters, landscaping, electrical, plumbing, and everything in between, it can be hard to know where to start.
In today’s blog post, we’ll get you started with a getting-start guide to taking care of your gutters. Read on to learn the basics of what gutters do, signs they need to be cleaned, and how All Around Maintenance can help.
What do gutters do?
The purpose of a rain gutter is simple but very important: to divert water away from your home. When it rains, the water travels down the slope of your roof and is caught by the gutter, which sends the water through the gutter system to the downspout. From there, the downspout directs the water to drain out and away from your home’s foundation, preventing a plethora of problems that happen when rainwater pools around your home.
The benefits of rain gutters
It might not seem like it, but rain gutters are one of the key pieces to maintaining the health and longevity of your home. They help to:
- Protect your home’s foundation
- Prevent erosion around your property
- Maintain landscaping
- Keep water out of your basement
- Deter pests
- Inhibit mold growth and rot
In a rainy climate like we have here in the Portland metro area, one of our best defenses against water damage is the humble rain gutter.
What can happen if you don’t clean your gutters
When you think about big house repair expenses, you probably worry about repairing the roof, purchasing a new water heater, or fixing a damaged foundation. And while your gutters are likely an “out of sight, out of mind” situation, they really shouldn’t be overlooked.
You can think of your gutters as the first line of defense to protecting your home’s foundation. Without gutters, rainwater drains uncontrolled off of your roof, allowing water to pool around the foundation of your home. From there, it can seep into the foundation, or add unnecessary pressure to the structure of your home, resulting in cracks or fissures in the foundation. The average cost to fix a house foundation? Close to $4,500. We’ll say it with you: “Ouch!”
Nobody wants to go down to their basement to discover pooled water — or catch a whiff of the dreaded musty mold smell. Unfortunately, this can happen thanks to damaged, clogged, or ineffective gutters. And like foundational problems, fixing a flooded basement can cost you.
When gutters overflow, it allows the water to drop straight down onto the ground near your house instead of being directed away from it like it is through a downspout. If your basement has cracks or holes, or simply isn’t waterproofed, the overflowing water can seep into it, causing at a minimum increased moisture, and in the worst-case flooding or mold growth.
When water pools inside a clogged gutter, two things can happen:
- It puts undue strain on your roof from the weight of the water
- It allows water to sit close to your house, settling near your roof. This can lead to rot in your roof or the siding just under the roof, causing roof leaks and other expensive repairs down the road.
- Water damaged siding
- Mold and mildew growth
How to tell when your gutters need to be cleaned
One rule of thumb we recommend at All Around Maintenance is to clean your gutters twice per year, once in the spring and once in the fall, to ensure they function properly year round.
But as a new homeowner, it can be hard to tell when the house’s gutters were cleaned last. Thankfully, there are several clear signs your gutters need to be cleaned, including gutters that:
- Appear clogged — you don’t see rainwater draining from the downspout when it rains
- Overflow — water spills out the sides of the gutter when it rains
- Sag when it rains
- Have visible leaves, branches, pinecones, or other buildup sticking out of them
- Develop visible water stains or mildew growth — this indicates standing water in your gutter system
- Show plant growth
- Attract pests like mice, squirrels, or bees
Another indicator to look out for? Visible water staining on your home’s siding.
If you notice any of these signs in your gutters, it’s time to either clean them yourself or reach out to the professionals.
How to carefully and safely clean your gutters
It’s important to note the keywords in the statement above: “carefully” and “safely”. There are a lot of mistakes people make when trying to clean their roofs or gutters themselves, and it can be dangerous not only to your home but to yourself.
Here are the basic steps to take if you plan to clean your gutters yourself:
Step 1 – Wait until it has been dry for at least 2 days. This will make cleaning up the debris in your gutter much easier, as it will allow it to dry out beforehand.
Step 2 – Wear proper clothing (read: tight-fitting clothing you don’t mind getting dirty) and gather all of the tools you’ll need in advance. These tools include:
- A ladder
- A gutter scoop
- Two buckets (one for debris and one for your tools)
- A garden hose with a spray nozzle
Step 3 – Always practice good ladder safety. Thousands of people suffer from ladder injuries every year, but there are simple things you can do to prevent becoming one of them. Always make sure to place your ladder on sturdy ground and closely follow your ladder’s safety instructions. Maintain “3 points of contact” at all times on the ladder and be careful not to overreach.
Step 4 – Scoop out the debris from the gutters. This is where your gloves, goggles, and a gutter scoop come into play — these will help protect you from debris you may kick up and make it easier to pull the leaves, pinecones, pine needles, etc. out of your gutters. It’s also a good idea to have a bucket on hand for this task to drop the debris into. Start off near the downspout and work your way over on the gutter from there. Lay your tarp below you to catch any extra debris and save you yard cleanup later.
Step 5 – Use a hose to flush the gutters. Once you’ve cleared the larger pieces of debris from the gutters, use your garden hose with a spray nozzle to spray water into the gutters. The stream should be strong enough to clear remaining debris from your gutters, but be careful not to spray your roof shingles, as you might damage them.
Step 6 – Look for leaks in the gutters and seal them. Once you feel your gutters are clean and the water isn’t being blocked by anything in the downspouts, keep an eye out for leaks in your gutters. If you find them, it’s important to repair them to ensure your gutters function properly.
You’re all done!
Work with the professionals at All Around Maintenance
Although you technically can clean your gutters yourself, the safer and faster option is to turn to the professionals! At All Around Maintenance, we’ve helped hundreds of new homeowners in the Portland and Vancouver areas keep their gutters working in tip-top shape for more than 15 years.
Contact us today to set up an appointment or to learn more about how our team of licensed and insured professionals can help!