Life in the gutter isn’t easy, especially if you’re tasked with keeping your home dry and routing rainwater away from your residence.
When was the last time you cleaned your gutters? If the answer is only when they become loaded with leaves, that’s the wrong answer. We understand the words don’t scream excitement. Cleaning gutters is far from the most glamorous or fun way to spend an autumn Saturday afternoon, but it could be one of the most important home upkeep exercise you take this fall.
Routine gutter cleaning is an essential home maintenance measure, especially in fall and winter, and is the No. 1 preventive measure to avoiding major and expensive home repairs.
Gutters are your home’s water control system. Clean gutters guarantee rainfall does not accumulate on or near your home, and also secures the foundation and stability of your home.
In comparison, cluttered and dirty gutters can create all kinds of expensive damage to your house and create dangerous living conditions for your family.
What kind of home headaches does lazy gutter maintenance create? For starters, clogged gutters can lead to water overflow and damage to the interior and exterior of your home, erode landscaping and cause roof leaks among other problems. And we haven’t even talked about the hurt dirty gutters can put on your house’s resale value.
“If you let gutter cleaning go by the wayside, it can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Jeff Lambert a supervisor with The Gutter Man in Houston.
The No. 1 potential danger of water overflow is it can penetrate your siding and foundation, potentially resulting in mold growth that is hazardous to your family’s health. Dirty gutters can also transform into nesting sites for insects, mice and other vermin. Standing water in gutters is prime real estate for mosquitoes to breed and spread diseases. Plus, do you really want birds building nests above debris in your gutters?
“Gutters are a potential bomb above your head full of insects and critters, if you let them stay out of sight, out of mind,” Lambert said.
And we’ve only covered the damage dirty gutters can inflict in the spring and summer. In winter, clogged gutters can lead to ice damages when the snow on your roof melts. Instead of properly running off, water backs up on your roof and causes leaks and water damage.
Here is a complete rundown of the major problems dirty gutters cause:
- Leaking Gutters: Clogged gutters are the leading cause of basement water problems. When gutters are clogged, roof water overflows and accumulates around the home’s foundation. The next stop for that water is the basement.
- Cracked Foundations: When clogged, gutters allow excess water to accumulate against the home’s foundation wall. This weakens the footing and creates wall cracks. During the winter, built-up water around the foundation freezes and causes a condition known as frost-heave, which causes severe cracks to foundation walls.
- Rotten Wood: Water backing up from clogged gutters creates moisture damage to the wood fascia around the house. This rotted wood will quickly get worse if the leak is not quickly eliminated by gutter cleaning.
- Slippery Sidewalks: Don’t let your home’s walkways become a Three Stooges skit. Overflowing gutters deposit water on walks and driveways, leading to freezing and slipping hazards. Regular gutter cleaning and moving spouts away from traffic areas avoid this problem.
- Cracked Driveways: Misdirected and clogged gutter spouts often cause driveways and walks to sag and crack.
- Washed Out Landscaping: Any newly planted prized petunias, lilacs, roses or maple trees are at the mercy of dirty gutters. Clogged gutters can kill newly installed plants, grass and lead to severe erosion.
- Wood Devouring Insects: Remember, bugs love moisture. Keeping gutters free of clogs and keeping home foundation soil dry forces bugs to journey elsewhere for tasty snacks.
How often should gutters be cleaned? It depends on how many trees your yard has and how leafy they are.
“It should be on everyone’s to-do list about every four months, depending on the tree climate,” Lambert said. “In a high-yield environment, leaves fall all year-round. You can’t wait until the last leaf falls.”
Installing a leaf-free gutter guard system can keep your gutters free of debris and build up. The best part of gutter guards is they require no maintenance or cleaning. Most gutter guard systems offer lifetime, clog-free guarantees. But gutter guards need quality covers (which run on average between $1,500 and $2,500) and screens to effectively need to limit the need for maintenance.
We understand gutter cleaning can be a daunting job not for the faint of heart, or heights, especially for large two and three story houses that require tall ladders to reach gutters. The Consumer Products Safety Commission reports falls from ladders sent more than 240,000 Americans to hospital emergency rooms in 2009. Make sure all ladders and steps are sturdy, in good condition and place on level ground before scaling them.
Call a professional for especially tough gutter cleaning jobs. A professional cleaning typically runs between $75 to $225 for an average home.
A Saturday afternoon spent cleaning the gutters isn’t anybody’s idea of a fun time, but it can potentially save you thousands of dollars of home headaches in the long run.