It’s that time of year when a second gutter cleaning is almost always needed, especially with the new shedding of leaf debris from newly spring budding branches. Recent winter storms can also blow leaves, pine needles and roofing debris into gutters, causing potential rainwater overflow, which in turn can cause landscape erosion and water damage to homes.
There are a variety of gutter cleaning tips that can bring sanity and safety into this tedious task. Some of the basics are listed below:
Garden Hose Use a garden hose with a pistol-grip trigger spray nozzle. This style of spray nozzle comes with a pistol-grip trigger, allowing it to be easily hung over the front edge of the gutter while moving the ladder or while using a gutter scoop. Spraying out the gutter is generally best when most of the larger debris has already been removed with a gutter scoop. Spray toward the downspout (leader pipe) so the small, murky debris flows down the downspout.
Ladder Safety Use a safe and sturdy ladder, preferably with a small shelf strong enough to hold a 5-gallon bucket to collect gutter debris. Make sure to secure the bucket with a lanyard. I recommend a four-legged step ladder for a 1-story home, and an extension ladder for a 2-story home.
Wooden ladders often are wobbly and difficult to safely balance. Fiberglass ladders are the sturdiest but are also the heaviest. If you are cleaning gutters for hours upon hours, muscle fatigue can set in from moving the heavy ladder numerous times. If this is the case, use an aluminum ladder, which is the second-choice option for strength and support.
Power Line Hazard When cleaning gutters around a power line cable that drops from the power pole to the roof of a home, 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 the cable appears to have damage, do not attempt to repair it. Call a licensed professional electrical contractor to fix it. It is not advisable to use a metal ladder near power lines when cleaning gutters; a fiberglass ladder is a better safety solution in this situation.
Rake Off Roof Rake all debris off the roof first. Otherwise, the next rain will wash all the debris down into the clean gutter, clogging it up again. Also, debris left on the roof can lead to water damming up in valleys or around the chimney, which can cause erosion and roof leaks over time.
Rubber Shoes If walking on the roof is necessary to perform gutter cleaning, it is good to use rubber-soled shoes. Rubber soles tend to adhere best and prevent slipping and falls. Rooftops tend to be moist in the morning, so it is best to walk on the roof after 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 Downspouts Make sure the downspouts are clear. After all the gutters are cleaned out, run the water hose down the downspout at full pressure. If the water backs up out of the top, a clog is present. Normally, it can be unclogged by tapping on the side of the downspout. But if that doesn’t work, the downspout and back need to be removed, and it should be flushed from the bottom. If a clog is present, and the downspout is connected to an underground drain, it is best to disconnect the bottom of the downspout from the underground drain. Otherwise, the clog may move to the underground drain. When unclogging the downspout, wear protective eyewear, because anything can escape from the downspout at high speeds once the clog is being removed.
Robert Lenney is the owner and founder of the Rocklin, Calif.-based company Gutterglove Inc. The company, which has been in business since 1996, manufactures a full line of micro-mesh gutter protection systems and distributes them throughout North America. Visit Tapeongutterguard.com or Gutterglove.com.