Fall is the season when gutters should be cleaned out in preparation for the rainy or snowy season ahead. If the rainwater doesn’t flow properly through the gutter and downspout system, costly repairs (ranging from rainwater damage to freezing gutters) can occur.
Follow these gutter cleaning tips to prevent personal injury and property damage!
Practice Ladder Safety
Always let someone know you will be using a ladder to work on your building’s roof or gutters:
– Use a safe and sturdy ladder and be sure to secure the bucket with a lanyard
– For a single-story structure, a four-legged step ladder is good but for a two-story or taller facility, an extension ladder is recommended
– Avoid ladders that are unbalanced and offer weak support such as three-legged or wobbly ladders. Types of ladders include:
- Fiberglass (heavy, but is the sturdiest)
- Aluminum (lighter, so muscle fatigue is reduced)
- Wooden (less safe)
– Inspect the ladder for defects, dents or loose parts before climbing
– When opening up a step ladder, make sure the extension-hinge arms are fully extended and locked in place
Use a Garden Hose
By using a garden hose with a pistol-grip trigger spray nozzle, it allows you to adjust the water pressure with one hand and can be easily hung over the front edge of the gutter while moving the ladder or using a gutter scoop.
Get a Gutter Scoop
A gutter scoop is a very thin, plastic scooping tool and forms itself to the bottom of the gutter trough, making it easy to scoop out even the toughest debris in any size gutter system! Avoid using metal scooping tools, as the metal will cause scrapes which can lead to a rusty gutter.
Protect your Hands
– Gloves can help protect hands against:
- Dirty, rotting leaf debris that often contain bird, pigeon and squirrel droppings that are ridden with bacteria
- Painful cuts from the torn metal shards of an old, ragged gutter
– Types of common gloves include:
- Cotton, tends to soak up dirty water that exposes skin to bacteria
- Leather, which is not as flexible and tends to shrivel up when they dry after cleaning
- Rubber, can get poked or torn by metal shards in the gutter
So, what is the ideal type of glove to use?
A thick glove made out of suede material (this material is superior to cotton, leather and rubber).
Protect your Eyes
One never knows what thing or animal might fly out of the downspout when cleaning gutters so protecting the eye is absolutely necessary.
Clean the Roof First
Rake or power wash all debris off the roof first. Otherwise, the next rain will wash all the debris down into the clean gutter, clogging it up again.
Wear Rubber Shoes
Use rubber-soled shoes if walking on the roof is necessary to clean certain areas of the gutter (rubber soles tend to adhere best and prevent slip-and-fall incidents).
Rooftops tend to be moist in the morning, so it is best to walk on the roof when the sun is well up in the sky and has dried up all the moisture.
Late mornings or early afternoons are the best times to walk on a roof!
Unclog the Downspouts
After unclogging them, run the water hose down the downspout at full pressure. If the water backs up out of the top, a clog is present. Try to unclog them by tapping on the side of the downspout. If that doesn’t work, the downspout and back will need to be removed, and it should be flushed from the bottom.
Schedule Semi-annual Cleanings
In the fall and spring
Cleaning out gutters on a semi-regular basis, eliminates the possibility of water damage from rainwater runoff due to a clogged gutter and reduces the possibility of rust corrosion. While it may not rain much during the summer, if there is debris in the steel gutters, the rusting process can speed up. But, by keeping the gutters clean, it will slow down the process. The faster the rusting process, the sooner new gutters will be needed so keep’em clean!
Be Mindful of Power Line Hazards
When cleaning gutters around a power line cable that drops from the power pole to the roof of a building, conduct a visual inspection of the electrical cable where it connects to the roof. This is to ensure that the protective wire insulation hasn’t rubbed off through years of wear-and-tear by weather and nearby trees. If it’s raining and there is an electrical wire problem, do not attempt to clean out the gutters until the wires are fixed; water is a dangerous conductor of electricity. Whether it’s raining or not, it would be a good idea to have the electrical wiring repaired before cleaning out your gutters.
Invest in Gutter Guards
Gutter guards can eliminate the need for cleaning out gutters semi-annually. Gutter guards keep out leaves, pine needles, pests, nests and more!
Less time on the ladder is the goal!