Standing under the giant gold umbrella of foliage that covered your majestic shade tree this fall was like wandering into a painting, but now that the leaves have all fallen and the stately guardian is beginning its winter rest, it’s time to consider the clean up. You’ve already mulched the leaves on the lawn, but that’s only the beginning. Your gutters were also gracious receptacle of those golden flags — they’re going to need a good cleaning to keep working like they should.
There’s no easy way to say this, so I’m just going to come out with it. All that gross, grimey stuff in your gutters has to go and there’s not really a hands-off way to do this that’s both safe and reliable. The very best way to clean your gutters is still to don some work gloves, mount a ladder and use a garden trowel to scrape out all the detris that’s accumulated since the last time you or the former owner of your home did this vile task.
Try very hard to not push any of that debris down into the downspouts. Once inside the downspout, that mess of rotting leaf matter can turn into the most epic clog you can imagine, requiring a Herculean effort to extract. That is not what you want to spend doing this weekend. Instead, start at the downspout and work toward the middle of the gutter, and then repeat on the other side if it also has a downspout.
You can toss the mess into a bucket you’ve carefully hung from your nifty ladder, lay a tarp down to catch whatever you toss on it or have a friend on the ground who gets to be the unlucky bearer of the compost pail. Just try to get most of the muck in the container or he won’t come back to help you fix that chimney cap.
Once all the muck’s cleaned out, you should then run a hose to rinse the silty deposits out of the bottom of the gutters until they shine. This will also show you if there are any leaks or sagging spots that need to be addressed right away. Your gutters should always move on a downward slope toward the downspout, without any places that can allow for puddles to accumulate unless you’re interested in breeding mosquitoes.
With your gutters nice and clean, you can see exactly what needs to be done, if anything. Because many gutters are neglected for years and years, they often are found in quite a shape by the time anyone bothers to clean them or give them any attention. There are three common problems you may encounter:
Loose gutter nails. The most common offense, by far, is going to be loose gutter nails. You might as well just buy a bunch of new nails and grab a hammer before you even start your clean-out. Unless your gutters are brand new, they’ve had time for the sheer weight of water, wet leaves and who knows what else to work those nails out bit by bit. Remove any nails that are bent, broken or have separated from the house and put a shiny new one in its place.
Dried out caulk. Caulk helps keep the contents of your gutters from seeping behind them and encouraging nasty rot and mold colonies on the fascia of your home. When the caulk starts to go missing or is dried out and loses its ability to really resist water, sun and heat, it’s time to grab a putty knife, remove it all and start again. Putting down a caulk bead is no big deal. The real trick behind the quality of seal you get at the end of this project is in the prep work. Make sure the area is free of chipping paint and that it’s clean, it’s dry and it’s totally ready to rock and roll before you even open the caulk tube.
Rusted or broken seams. These days most gutters are aluminum or plastic, and many are of the seamless variety, so this may not apply to your home. But you should take a good long look at any joints in your gutters to ensure that they’re working as they should and are in good shape anyway. Aluminum will corrode to a white powder, so if your aluminum joints look deformed or powdery, it could still be a good idea to swap them out.
Gutter guards are not a way to get out of ever having to clean the gutters ever again, especially if you live on a lovely tree-lined street. They will, however, delay the inevitable, provided you choose high quality gutter guards that will continue to allow water to flow freely while stopping debris. The last thing you want is your gutter guards to cause water to backup and damage your roof or walls.
There are plenty of gutter guard designs, some are easier to install than others and some work better than others under different conditions. Ask the sales rep for help choosing one based on your particular needs, but don’t leave the store with gutter guards that are going to be overly difficult or cumbersome to remove because eventually you’re going to have to clean those gutters again.
Cleaning your gutters is a labor of love, there’s absolutely no doubt. It’s one of those chores that you know you have to do to keep your house in the best health possible, but it’s also not a lot of fun, requires that you balance on a ladder while dealing with some potentially awful and slimy stuff and frankly, not a really job you even have to do if you don’t want to.
Did you know there are lots of people you can hire to do things like this waiting for you in HomeKeepr? All you have to do is open it and look them up, a quick email or telephone call will have a gutter professional at your home in no time. Instead of potentially ruining a friendship by dropping muck on your best pal, invite your buddy over for the big game and let the pros handle your gutter problem. You can relax, safe in the knowledge that next fall that big, glorious tree won’t create a giant pain in your home maintenance checklist.