Why is gutter cleaning important?
It may be an easy chore to forget about, but if you want to avoid expensive damage to your home, you won’t neglect your gutters. The purpose of your gutters is to get stormwater and snow melt away from your home, specifically your foundation, and thwarting that effort can cause serious repercussions for your home.
Clogged gutters can damage your foundation by allowing water to enter your basement or crawl space, which can lead to mold and other water damage. In winter, the water can freeze and actually crack your foundation. Higher up, if water gets behind your gutters, it can rot out your fascia boards, which in turn puts your gutters at risk of collapse and also provides an opening for animals and more water to find its way into your roof.
This is why it is critical for you to regularly clean your gutters and repair any sagging or broken hangers as soon as you notice them. If you have been neglecting your gutters, you may need to consider completely replacing your gutters depending on the level of damage.
How often should you clean your gutters?
How often gutters need to be cleaned depends on the climate and surrounding landscape. If you live in the Arizona desert, you may be able to go several years, but for those who live where autumn leaves fall, it's important to clean gutters at least twice a year.
The most important time is in late fall after all or most of the leaves have come down as leaves and twigs cause most clogs in gutters. The other important time to clean your gutters is the spring or early summer as pollen, flower petals and seeds such as maple “helicopters” can build up. Also, most deciduous trees drop debris in the spring, so even those of you living in conifer forests aren’t off the hook. Those who live in heavily wooded areas may find it necessary to clear the gutters three or four times a year.
And it’s not just the horizontal gutters you need to worry about. Always make sure the downspouts are not clogged and that they are carrying water away from the house foundation.
Tips for DIY gutter cleaning
Gutter cleaning is something you can do on your own if you know how to clean gutters, but it can be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. Follow these safety tips to avoid damage to your home and trips to the emergency room.
1. Choose the right ladder for the job. For single-story houses, use a four-legged stepladder. You'll probably need an extension ladder for two-story homes.
2. Inspect the ladder to make sure it's sturdy and all of the steps are in good condition. Climb the first two steps to determine if the ground is level. For soft soil, place plywood under the legs of the ladder.
3. Never rest the ladder on your gutters as they weren’t design to hold up to that kind of pressure and the additional weight can cause them to bend, break or collapse.
4. Wear thick work gloves to protect your hands from dirt, animal waste, sharp debris and other hazards. Leather or suede gloves will provide the best protection.
5. Wear protective eyewear or goggles to prevent eye injuries. This is important when removing debris because a host of animals and insects can be living within the debris.
6. Use rubber-soled shoes if you need to walk on the roof.
7. Get a spotter. The the best way to keep the ladder sturdy is to have someone hold the ladder while you're on it. Another safety precaution is to keep both legs and one hand on the ladder at all times.
8. Attach a bucket securely to the shelf of the ladder with a lanyard to collect debris so you can use both hands.
9. Use a plastic gutter scoop to remove large debris from the gutter.
Gutter guards and screens
If you want extra protection for your gutters and to clean your gutters less often, gutter guards are a great option to consider. But if your goal is to never get up on a ladder again to scoop out leaves, you are out of luck with this option. Even the best gutter guard systems require regularly cleaning every few years.
Gutter guards are designed to prevent clogs by allowing water to flow to the gutter while keeping debris out. There are several types of guards available but not every type is right for every environment, so understanding exactly how each system works will allow you to choose the one that's best for your home.
Types of gutter guards
You can generally classify gutter guards into one of three categories: screens, inserts or reverse curves.
Screens are the most common and work by covering your existing gutter with a membrane that allows water through, but blocks debris. The screens can be simple, like the screens that cover your windows, or complex with several layers of fine mesh to block even the smallest of particles. Like all filters, screens will need to be removed and cleaned from time to time.
Inserts are the least expensive and easiest to install. These guards fill the gutter with a porous material, such as foam, which allows water to filter through while blocking most debris. Inserts will need to be regularly removed and cleaned, and smaller pieces of debris may still collect in your gutter over time.
Reverse curves are slightly more advanced. They direct water over a curve and into a small slit while allowing gravity to force other debris to fall off the roof. The best reverse-curve systems require little maintenance, but while they’re efficient at keeping debris out, they may have water collection issues during heavy storms.
Gutter guard installation procedures and cost
Gutter guards systems can range widely in price from just a few dollars to upward of $30 per lineal foot installed. The average home has about 200 feet of gutter and $1,500 is an average starting cost for professional gutter guard installation.
Foam guards are usually the cheapest type of gutter guard and require minimal installation.
Screens have the widest variety of cost and installation expense, ranging from easy-to-install inserts to very complex. Simple screens need to be attached to the gutters and roof with screws or tape and can be installed in a few hours, while more advanced filtering systems require professional installation.
Reverse curves are usually the most expensive option and prices can reach up to $30 per foot. They should be installed by a professional to ensure optimal performance.
Hiring a gutter cleaning service
If you really want to never clean your gutters again, your only option is to hire a gutter cleaning service. This can be a particularly good choice for homeowners who have gutters that are difficult to reach, or who no longer feel physically comfortable doing the job themselves. No matter the reason, the most important thing is to regularly clean your gutters because the cost of neglect is too high.
The cost of gutter cleaning depends on the length and type of gutters you have as well as the height of your home as certain circumstances may require special equipment. Most companies charge a flat fee per foot of gutter, but the cost can rise, depending on the complexity of the work. Prices range from $75 to $225 for an average home.
Hiring a good gutter cleaning service is like anything else -- you need to be careful who you pick. Make sure the company has insurance and a good track record. Angie's List members are able to search for gutter cleaning companies in their communities and see which ones have been given good recommendations from past customers.