Get Your Leaves Out of the Gutter!
Cleaning the rain gutters on your home is certainly not the most exciting
job in home maintenance, but it is one of the most important, and luckily,
it is fairly simple. Maintaining gutters can not only extend the life of
the drainage system on your roof, but also prevent structural damage due to
water. Leaky gutters can allow water to permeate your siding, causing wood
rot, interior wall destruction and roofing problems. Maintaining gutters
will save you from stressful emergency repairs and the expensive bills that
Downspouts and gutters should be inspected twice a year-once in the late
fall, to remove leaves and debris, and once in the spring, before any spring
rains occur. Remove all debris from gutters and downspouts in order to
allow water to freely move off of the house, and to avoid water puddling
inside the gutters, which causes rust to form. Once your gutters are clear,
look for crusted dirt in the bottom of the gutters, and use a putty knife to
remove it. This prevents future clogging.
Now starts the search for clogs! Common places to check for clogging
include the elbows where the downspout meets the gutter. Simply remove the
elbow and free any debris. To clean out the downspout, push a garden house
down into the first bend and have someone turn on the faucet. The water
pressure will force small clogs out of the spout. If clogging continues,
use a plumber's snake to clean it out.
Once you've cleared the gutters, now is the time to do some preventative
maintenance. Most drainage problems are caused because the pitch of gutters
is incorrect. Fortunately, this is one of the easiest problems to look for
and to solve. Simply pour a bucket of water into the gutter and observe the
flow. If the water runs off without leaving pools of water along the
gutter, the pitch is correct. If you notice pools of water remaining in the
gutter, this indicates a low spot in your pitch. This can be corrected by
bending the hanger that supports the gutter. Generally, a slight bend will
eliminate the pooling. Some gutters are installed with spikes and sleeves
(also called spikes and ferrules), or with hangers. This type of
installation will require the installation of an additional spike or hanger
to raise or lower the pitch of the gutter at the appropriate points.
One idea to consider, that will make your work easier in six months, is to
install leaf strainers over all downspout outlets. These strainers insert
into the outlet, and allow water to pass, but prevent large debris from
passing into the downspout. Or consider installing leaf guards over your
entire gutter system. Leaf guards are generally made of metal or plastic
and sit above the gutter, under the eave of the house. Gutters will still
need to be inspected twice a year, but you won't have as many clogs to
Gutter maintenance is the type of work that is easily forgotten until it is
too late, and water comes cascading down the front of your home. You can
avoid that compelling vision by inspecting those gutters twice a year!
Source: Gene Gary, The Washington Post, and James Dulley.