You’d remember to clean your kitchen counters or hoover your carpets, but gutters are an aspect of cleaning that you may, through no fault of our own, have neglected. We are not told the benefits of cleaning your gutters and as we don’t see them everyday, they may not be on our to do lists.
- Why Gutter Cleaning and Maintenance is Important
- Inspecting Your Gutter
- Tools Needed to Clean Your Gutter
- How to Clean Your Gutter
- How to Stay Safe
- Maintaining the Gutter
It is important to clean them as they line your home and protect it from large amounts of rainwater and debris that otherwise may damage your roof, walls, and foundations.
We take gutters for granted but they are an integral part to a home’s drainage system. Many people may not realise that looking after and maintaining them is so important to protect our homes and families. This gutter maintenance guide will tell you why cleaning and maintenance is important, how to inspect your gutter, how to clean it out (and the tools you’ll need to do so), how to stay safe while doing so and then how to maintain the clean gutter you will have.
Why Gutter Cleaning and Maintenance is Important
In this gutter maintenance guide, we want to stress the importance of gutter cleaning and maintenance as there are many reasons why you should be making sure that your gutters are clear from debris. Not only does regular maintenance ensure that your gutters are in working order but cleaning them out ensures that they can continue to function properly.
You may think that because you cannot see any dirt in your gutter then there is nothing there that could cause a problem. This is definitely not the case though. Gutters can fit large amounts of debris in them before it becomes noticeable from below. In this case it may be too late, and damage may already have been done. This is why it is important to clean and maintain your gutter.
Preventing Water Damage
The function of gutters is to take rainwater and waste away from your roof and your home foundations. When the gutter is full of water, leaves, dirt, and moss it means that any more debris may just overflow onto your roof.
Over time, the roof may not be able to withstand the amount of water and other sodden debris which could cause damages, leading to leaks inside the house.
This does not only mean that your home may have water damage which can cost a lot of money if any items are ruined or if the actual foundations are ruined. You also may end up with holes in your roof that cost a lot to fix.
The water damage can also lead to ceiling stains which are unsightly and can be hard to remove as you may need to replace parts of the roof, ceilings, or walls. They can also be a catalyst for more problems such as damaging your insultation and rotting the frames.
The worst part of all of this is that you may not even realise that it is happening until it is too late! If you haven’t thought about cleaning your gutters, then water damage can easily happen which can all be avoided by making sure that your gutters are well maintained.
A problem that could occur because of your leaky roof is not only the potential of water damage but also the growth of mould in your home. Because of the moisture caused by a leaky roof and the heat of the home, the growth of mould can be quick and can cause problems.
Mould is hard to remove and can cause health problems for those in the house. The effects of mould on the body include inflammation of the airways, nasal congestion, wheezing, chest tightness, coughing and throat irritation (theconversation.com 2015).
These problems can affect anyone but are particularly damaging to certain people. People who are more sensitive than others such as babies and children, the elderly, people with skin conditions like eczema, those with asthma, and people with weakened immune systems for example those having chemotherapy (NHS.uk) are more susceptible to the health problems caused by mould growth in the home.
Cleaning out and regularly maintaining your gutters is a step towards protecting your family from a damaged or leaky roof and the implications regarding costs and health that come with it.
A gutter filled with rainwater, leaves, twigs, sticks, bits of tree branches and moss could be the perfect home for pests like birds, rats, mice, and insects. These pests can create numerous problems to your roof if they decide that your gutter is going to be their new home.
If birds are settling in groups in your gutters and on your roof then it can lead to headaches not only because of the amount of faeces that will end up on your home but also the continuous flying that can create problems. By taking off and landing on your gutter multiple times a day they could create cracks which over time could break, meaning that the gutter will not perform as it should and will also cost money to fix.
You also do not want any bees or wasps settling in your gutters. They can create problems as they have the capability to remove or hollow out sections of your gutter and roof. This can lead to water damage, holes in the roof and therefore (as we’ve discussed), mould growth.
Bee and wasp removal can cost up to £100 depending on the size of their nest or hive and the location. If they are settled in your gutter and roof, this is tricky to remove as the insect removers will have to get up there to do their job. This is an unnecessary cost considering that it can be avoided by keeping your gutters clean.
Inspecting Your Gutter
To prevent the problems mentioned above, it is important to regularly inspect your gutter to see how much debris it has collected, and to spot potential problems before they are made worse.
Inspecting your gutter is a key part of this gutter maintenance guide as it should be a standard part of every property maintenance regime. Full inspections should be carried out at least twice a year, maybe more depending on the weather (for example if you’ve recently had a lot of rain and wind) and where you home is (for example if you are close to trees).
We wouldn’t be able to call this a gutter maintenance guide without giving a list of the things to look out for when you are inspecting your gutters to prevent future problems that could be both expensive and damaging.
- Blocked downpipes – the downpipes can accumulate debris that can cause blockages which means that the rainwater can’t leave the roof properly. You can attach a leaf guard to the top of your downpipe (and the whole of the gutters in general) which will prevent the blockages.
- Weak joints – the joints that connect the different sections of the gutter are prone to failure. These joints are crucial to the gutters as they keep them all connected. Due to the pressure that they can be put under by the debris in a full gutter, they can break apart which will stop the gutter from working properly.
- Corrosion – you should check your gutters for any corrosion. Gutters are not always made from plastic and can rust and corrode away which will create pits in the tube that could form larger holes.
- Insufficient capacity – older homes have old gutter systems that were not made to hold large volumes of water and debris. This could be a problem if you are not cleaning out the gutters regularly as they may not be as strong as the newer gutter systems that come with newer houses.
Tools Needed to Clean Your Gutter
The next part of this gutter maintenance guide is about how to clean your gutter and the right tools that you can use to clean your gutters yourself. If all you have is gloves and a bin bag then you can get the job done (it just may take a while), or if you desire there are certain special products you can buy that will clean the gutters efficiently and quickly.
Below is a list of the key items that you may find helpful to remove the dirt and debris from your gutters to make the job easier for you.
- A ladder will be useful so that you don’t have to climb onto any roofs which is not only dangerous but also makes it harder to do the job. Any other equipment you need may fall off the roof and you’d have to get yourself and the equipment through a window which is trickier than just using a ladder, keeping the equipment you need in your hands and the rest on the floor.
- You will find that gloves will stop you from injuring yourself trying to remove the debris from the gutter as there may be sharp twigs or branches in there or even creatures that could nip you! It also helps to keep yourself clean as if the gutter is particularly full, then you could find yourself in a mess!
- If there is some stubborn debris that is hard to remove, then you may want to use a trowel or something similar to gently scrape the debris off. You can then either remove the dirt using the trowel or by hand with the gloves.
- A bin bag is optional as you can either just dump the gutter debris onto the floor to sweep up and throw away or recycle or you can clean as you go, putting the dirt into the bin bag straight from the gutter. Another option is using a bucket to fill up and empty as you go.
- Using a hosepipe that is long enough to reach the gutter will be a great way to clear away any mess left behind after the clean. Because the gutter will be nice and clean, the water will flow nicely away, showing how effective the gutter will now be.
- If you are looking for a more efficient way to clean out your gutters then you can buy a gutter cleaning attachment for your pressure washer which will use high pressured amounts of water to clear away the mess from inside your gutter.
How to Clean Your Gutter
The next step of this gutter maintenance guide will explain to you how to clean your gutter effectively. Below is a step by step guide on how to clean out your gutters which is crucial for gutter maintenance.
Cleaning the Debris
- Position your ladder in a safe and stable place. Make sure that the ladder is in a position so you are comfortable when up there and do not have to reach or stretch far.
- Put on your gloves and pick up your bin bag or bucket to put the debris in and carry it up the ladder.
- If you have gutter/leaf covers then remove them and put them on top of the roof to be put back after.
- Debris in your gutter usually has two layers: the top one (if there is no cover) will be made of leaves, twigs, bits of branches e.c.t and a bottom layer of dirt and sludge. You can remove the top layer with your hands, putting the leaves e.c.t in the bin or bucket.
- To remove the bottom layer of dirt and sludge you can either continue to use your hands to remove it or use the trowel to scoop up what is there without getting too messy. Make sure that you get out as much as possible to protect the gutter from damage.
- Once you’ve cleared the area that your ladder surrounds you will need to descend the ladder and move it to the next spot. This may seem like it will take a long time but doing it this way you can stay safe rather than leaning and potentially falling off the ladder.
Washing it Out
- After all the debris has been cleaned you can do a finish wash down of the gutters. You can do this using a hose, turning it on against the slope of your gutter so that any remaining waste runs down towards your downpipe. This should clear out anything that remains, however if there are more stubborn areas lower down the gutter then you can move you ladder to where it is to get the rest.
If you don’t have a hose, then you can fill a bucket with water and do the same process by gently pouring the water down the gutter.
As we have mentioned when discussing the tools available, you can use the attachment to clean the gutter with the pressure washer. This means that you do not need to climb your ladder but can use the attachment to get rid of the remaining waste.
Checking and Cleaning the Downpipes
- After the gutters are all clean you should check your downpipes. This is the pipe that is attached to the gutters that flows the water from the gutter to the earth. You can tell if it is blocked because the water will drain out of the end slowly rather than speeding through the pipe.
If it seems blocked, then you can put the hose down the pipe until it hits the blockage and then turning it on to create enough pressure that will force the blockage out. If this does not work, then the best solution is to take it apart by unscrewing it.
It will then be easy to push out the blockage by hand or using a stick to remove the debris and then attach it back to the house. Now the rainwater will easily flow through the gutters and down the pipe, preventing the problems that we have discussed in this gutter maintenance guide.
How often should I clean my gutters?
All of the aforementioned issues are easily avoidable by regularly and effectively cleaning your gutters. Most professionals recommend cleaning your gutters twice a year.
These bi-annual cleans should take place during the spring and the autumn. The latter clean should take place just before winter begins. This is when most of the leaves have fallen from the trees and is prior to the frosty weather starting.
It is incredibly hard to remove frozen debris from your gutters in the winter, so ensure you get your gutters cleaned beforehand. This reduces the chance of them becoming blocked later on in the year. The clean in the spring allows you to evaluate and fix any potential damage caused by the strong winds or snowfall felt over the winter.
A fascia is a long board or strip of material that is fixed below the lower roof, where the roof meets the wall of the property. This is known as the roofline and is where the guttering is traditionally attached. In most modern homes, they are made from uPVC, however if you have an older home you may find that your facias are made from painted wood.
Whilst facias do add certain cosmetic benefits to your property, they do serve a valuable purpose. They act as a barrier between the wood in the roof and the elements, protecting the roof frame from the weather. When this barrier fails, the roof frame can become damp and can even rot away. This can cause costly structural issues for your property and should be avoided.
Why should I clean my Fascia?
The UPVC that the fascia is made from is covered in a protective hydrophobic coating. Overtime, this coating can soon become covered in dirt, mould, and mildew. This not only looks unsightly, but it can lead to damage if the dirt and mould is not removed.
Cleaning your fascia can give your whole property an entire facelift. It instantly helps your property to look clean, tidy, and cared for, even adding value to your home. Regular cleaning also helps to prevent the risk of staining. Staining on your fascia can bring down the appeal of your home and can make your property look neglected. However, this can be avoided with regular cleaning.
If the dirt, mould, and mildew is allowed to build up on your fascia, it can cause cracks and holes to appear in the UVPC. This can expose the wooden roof frame, and can lead to damp, wood rot and warping. This can cause large structural issues, which can be costly to repair.
How Often Should I Clean My Fascia
The time between fascia cleans is highly dependant on the location of your property. If your house is next to a busy road for example, your home will be exposed to much pollution which can build up over time. This would mean that you would need to clean your fascias more regularly.
For a typical property, you should aim to have your fascia cleaned every 2-3 years. This should be regular enough to keep your fascias free from dirt and mould, keeping them gleaming.
Over time dirt, mould and mildew can build up on the exterior of your property. One of the most noticeable places for this to happen is on the fascia and soffit boards – This not only looks unsightly but can also cause damage if not kept clean.
The word “Soffit” is a French term, meaning “something fixed underneath”. You will typically find soffits in the main roofing area, but you may also find them under porches and even under the stairs. Whilst they can be made from a variety of different materials, such as cement, steel, and wood, UPVC is the superior material for soffits, and is now the most common.
The soffit serves a dual purpose – it provides an aesthetic benefit, and it also helps to protect the roof from the elements. The Soffit protects the rafters, and without the soffit, the rafters would rot and bring mould into the house, causing serious and highly expensive issues.
How to Stay Safe
There has been talk of ladders and gloves and rooves in this gutter maintenance guide, so we need to talk about the importance of staying safe while cleaning and maintaining your gutters. Gutters are on the top of our homes meaning that we need to make sure that the cleaning process is conducted safely if you are cleaning them out yourself.
- The most obvious way to stay safe is by using a ladder. We’ve talked about it already, but it is worth mentioning again to make sure that you stay safe by using a ladder rather than climbing on top of your roof.
- If you are using an extendable ladder then you can buy standoff stabilizers or brackets that prevent the ladder from lying on the gutters, but to lean against the roof. This will stop the ladder from damaging the gutter as they are usually made from plastic and could create dents.
- You should make sure that your ladder is on stable ground to stop the ladder from wobbling or slipping as when you are at the top of the ladder it seems more unstable than it may look.
- To make sure that your hands are free, use any bucket or bin bag that has a handle so you can hook it on the top of the ladder. This means that you can do the job with both hands to safely remove the debris and mess.
Maintaining the Gutter
After the big clean you are going to want to keep up with the maintenance because otherwise you’ll have to spend another afternoon in a year or so doing the same thing. Checking your gutters regularly means that you can prevent the problems that we have talked about in this guide.
A quick way to clean the gutters would be to get the hose and the ladder out after a storm or a night of wind and rain to blast the debris that may be there before it builds up and becomes a bigger problem.
Year-round gutter inspections, maintenance and repairs will lighten your workload later on. By conducting different checks and cleans throughout the year means that instead of doing a big, deep clean once a year, you can spend a little amount of time checking your gutters.
- Winter – when it comes to your gutters, winter is the season where its most likely that you will leave the gutters alone. This is because it may be tricky and dangerous to put up your ladder in the cold, snow, or ice. You want to make sure that you are being safe rather than worrying about what may be in your gutters, you can worry about it when the weather is more ladder friendly!
- Spring – the focus for this season is to check on what the winter months have left in the gutters. It is important to do a good inspection to check for cracks and sags, see if there are any blockages and check for breaks in the guttering.
- Summer – as the days are longer and the temperature is usually better during these months, you can take the time to put your ladder up safely and get rid of the debris build up.
- Autumn – checking your gutters more regularly is important during the Autumn months. This is because there will be more leaves and debris blowing into the gutters or falling from trees in the area. Checking the gutters regularly means that you can prevent any of the bigger problems that come with a poorly maintained gutter.