Gutter Cleaning: 7 Steps for keeping your gutters clean

gutter clogged with leaves and twigs prior to gutter cleaning

No matter the time of year, if you haven’t climbed a ladder to peek inside your gutters recently, odds are your gutters are due for a cleaning. While gutter cleaning is likely low on your list of enjoyable weekend activities, this article highlights several reasons why this unpopular seasonal chore is vital for the well-being of a healthy home.

Gutters are the primary mechanism for moving water off a roof and away from a home’s foundation. This may not seem like a big deal, but one inch of rain washing off the roof of a typical 2,000 square foot home can account for as much as 1,200 gallons of water. Based on the average rainfall for the Midwest, that adds up to nearly 32,000 gallons of water per year – enough water to fill 2 average sized swimming pools!

Gutter holding leaves, debris and water prior to gutter cleaning and installing gutter guards
Gutter holding leaves, debris and water prior to gutter cleaning and installing gutter guards

Clogged gutters are the leading cause of water in basements 

The #1 cause of flooded basements and foundation damage is clogged gutters. When gutters clog, water is unable to flow freely, which results in the gutters filling with water and cascading over the front and back edges of the gutter. Overflowing water will stream down a home’s exterior walls and seep into the ground below. If your home has a basement or crawl space, the water will find naturally occurring cracks in the foundation and enter the structure. 

If you have window wells, water can accumulate in the wells and seep through the window openings or broken seals around the window frames. As the ground becomes saturated, excess water will pool around the foundation until the ground can absorb it. The presence of excessive moisture around a foundation can lead to mold and mildew problems, which is costly to remediate, potentially hazardous to your home and health, and can adversely affect your home’s resale value.

Excess water leads to wood rot, termite damage, and mosquito infestations

If left unchecked, clogged gutters can cause wood rot on your home’s fascia boards, soffits and eaves. When this occurs, gutters must be removed from your home so the damaged wood can be replaced. Clogged gutters are also a popular breeding ground for mosquitoes!

The simple way to avoid these problems is gutter cleaning on a regular basis or installing gutter guards that will permanently keep leaves and debris out of your gutters.

clogged gutters water to the brim and leaking over

How often should you clean your gutters?

Each homeowner will have a different gutter cleaning schedule based on the number and type of trees, and proximity of the trees to the house. In some cases, you may have to clean your gutters monthly, while other homeowners only have to do it a few times a year. The easiest way to see if your gutters are clogged is to visually inspect them and watch what happens when it rains. If you see water spilling over the gutters, then you know they are clogged and you need to take action. Check the gutters seasonally to make sure they are flowing properly. 

The two most important times to check and clean gutters are during the spring and fall. As trees and shrubs blossom in the spring, they drop flowers, seeds, and other organic matter that can quickly build-up inside and clog your gutters. You may have to clean your gutters several times during the spring to keep them flowing properly. 

When leaves shed from trees in the fall, plan to clean the gutters again. It is very important that you clean your gutters before winter; otherwise, snow and ice is more likely to build-up in your gutters. Accumulating snow and ice can cause icicles to form on your gutters, and the excessive weight of the wet, compacted leaves and debris with the ice and snow can literally pull the gutters off of your home. 

Gutter cleaning tools of the trade

Now that you are ready to clean your gutters, grab a step- or extension-ladder, a 3” paint scraper, a garden hose with a high-pressure nozzle, yard waste bags or a bucket in which to place the leaves (or drop them to the ground and pick them up later), and a pair of gardening gloves. If you are using an extension ladder, invest in a ladder stabilizer that will keep the ladder securely positioned on the side of your home and allow you to work freely without damaging the gutters. 

How to: 7-Steps to clean gutters

Following these easy steps will ensure that your gutters remain clog-free and work properly year round.

  1. Position your ladder at the downspout

    Start at the downspout by first removing any leaves and debris that are covering the downspout opening. This will allow any standing water that may be in the gutter to drain out of the gutter. If there is a lot of standing water in the gutter, keep your hand inside the gutter, scooping out any debris that moves with the water towards the downspout.

  2. Remove debris from gutter

    Clean out leaves and debris with your hand, a gutter scooper or leaf blower. Wearing gloves will protect your hands from scrapes and any sharp objects, such as sticks, pine needles and random roofing nails. 

  3. Employ a paint scraper

    Use a 3” paint scraper to remove smaller debris and shingle granules along the bottom of the gutter. A paint scraper fits nicely in the bottom of the gutter; it makes gutter cleaning easier by extending your reach and the scraper dislodges the toughest debris from the gutter surface.

  4. Move from the low side to the high side

    When you’re finished, your ladder will be positioned at the high side of the gutter. If you have downspouts on both ends of the gutter, the high spot will be in the center of the gutter, so start there and move towards both ends.

  5. Wash out the gutters

    Grab your hose with a hi-pressure nozzle, turn the faucet to the highest setting and wash out the gutters working towards the downspout. 

  6. Clear all debris from downspout opening

    Once you reach the downspout, make sure that you have removed any remaining debris from the mouth of the downspout and shoot water down the downspout to ensure that debris is not restricting water flow. 

  7. Remove clogs and flush downspouts

    If the downspout is clogged, you may need to disconnect it in order to remove the debris. If you have underground drainage, be sure all debris has been removed from the downspout and the openings to the underground pipes are clear.

Once your gutters are clean, if you still have standing water in the gutter, this means that your gutters were not installed improperly or have sagged over time. Unfortunately, this is a common problem that, if not corrected, will exacerbate water issues, so it’s something that you’ll want to take care of by hiring a professional to fix or replace your gutters.

Check out five questions to ask before hiring a gutter contractor.

Before scaling the side of our home to clean your gutters, keep in mind that according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 150,000 people are injured as a result of falling off of ladders and more than 150 people are killed annually.

gutter clogged with leaves and twigs prior to gutter cleaning

Consider hiring a gutter pro and installing gutter guards

If you’re not inclined to clean your own gutters, hire a handyman or an enterprising high school/college student to do it for you. But be careful, if somebody gets injured while working on your home and is not properly insured, you may be liable for any injuries and damages that occur.

If hiring a professional seems like the more prudent way to keep your gutters clean, set-up an annual maintenance contract or consider installing gutter guards as an alternative to regular cleanings. Not all gutter guards work effectively, so it is important to select the correct style of gutter guard for your home. The quantity and types of trees in your yard, your roof’s slope, and shingle style will determine the application that is best for you. Price will undoubtedly play a factor, too. With so many products on the market, use the Internet to do your homework, visit our blog at www.GutterTalkBlog.com for lots of useful information, check online reviews, ask for references, and then select the solution that is best for you.

Regular gutter cleaning or installing gutter guards will keep your gutters clog-free, prevent costly damage to your home’s exterior and interior, and increase your home’s resale value.

To learn more about how Gutter Guards Direct can help with gutter cleaning and gutter guards, call us toll-free at 1-800-750-2131 or complete and submit the inquiry form below.

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How we helped a client score a new, nearly free roof

plastic gutters and gutter guards clogged with pine and fir needles

Having spent over 20-years in the gutter, we’ve seen plenty of good, bad and ugly roofs. When we first visited this home in Whitehall, just outside Columbus, Ohio, we could barely see the roof among the two large fir trees that enveloped the front of the home.

We were called by the homeowner to provide an estimate for new gutters and gutter guards. The gutters were plastic and had more or less fallen apart. They were crammed full of pine needles. The roof had pine needles inches thick on top of the shingles and the limbs from the fir trees were overhanging the house.

Candidly, it was a mess!

What’s the best gutter guard for pine needles?

The homeowner said that she was looking to move within a year or two and wanted to make improvements to her house without breaking the bank. We agreed that replacing her undersized 4″ plastic gutters with 5″ aluminum gutters would do the trick. Because she had two large fir trees, I recommended MicroScreen gutter guards as the only way to keep pine needles out of her gutters.

Since the plastic gutters had performed so poorly, and perhaps because those gutters were full of pine needles and debris, the water had accumulated inside the gutter and spilled over onto the facia boards. Continuous water overflow caused several of the boards to rot and decay, so those, too, needed to be replaced.

When we arrived on the scene to replace the bad facia boards, we found that termites had invaded the wood and the sub-facia that was attached to the rafter tails. A combination of water and termite damage meant that we had to replace a fair amount of wood on the house, including some soffits.

And we thought all she wanted was new gutters and gutter guards

What started out as a gutter and gutter guard job barely got off the ground before we identified another serious problem. When we climbed onto the roof to sweep off the pine needles, we found extensive hail and wind damage on the shingles. Several rows of shingles had been torn and much of the roof had large divots where the hail stones had impacted the shingles, exposing the fiberglass lining. Ditto for large dings on the aluminum roof vents.

We have helped customers with their insurance claims for gutters, gutter guards and roofs, so I took pictures and showed the homeowner the extent of the damage. I told her that if she called her insurance company, we would work with the adjuster to help get her a new roof for the cost of her deductible.

She agreed that was a good idea. 

When bad weather masks itself as Santa Claus

Once we replaced the damaged wood, we put the project on hold until the insurance adjuster could assess her roof. Fortunately, he agreed that her roof was badly damaged by wind and hail, and the insurance company paid for a new roof. 

We facilitated the entire process, interfacing with insurance, helping the homeowner select new shingles, and overseeing the installation of the new roof. We were able to upgrade the homeowner from 20-year, three-tab shingles to lifetime architectural shingles, and we were able to install the roof shortly after insurance approved the claim.

Because we were on the job site and knew what to look for, and because we have years of experience working with insurance to make sure homeowners get what they deserve when they have sustained weather related damage to their home, the value of our service far exceeded her expectations. 

As part of our service, we upgraded her shingles at no charge, we installed new step and counter flashing around the chimney and along the side wall, ensuring that her new roof will be weather and water tight for years to come. Couple this with removing damaged and rotted facia and soffit wood, upgrading her gutters from plastic to aluminum, and installing MicroScreen gutter guards to keep pine needles, maple seeds and oak tassels out of her gutters, this homeowner received an extreme home makeover.

The only thing that we won’t be doing is painting her house, but she has scheduled that work to be done by a neighborhood painter friend. 

Quality vs Quantity: Which would you choose? 

I can’t help but think that if she had hired another gutter contractor to do this work, would they have made cosmetic changes to the wood — covering up the termite damage — installed gutters and gutter guards and walked away?

We took this project several steps further by knowing how to recognize hail damage and walking her through the insurance claims process — making sure that she received a fair resolution for her claim. 

Roof? Check. Gutters? Check. Gutter Guards? Check. Insurance? Bonus Check!

Her bonus was that she received a brand new $7,000 roof for the cost of her deductible. In addition to new wood, gutters and gutter guards, the new roof will add considerable value to the sale price of her home, and it gives the home way more curb appeal than before.

The benefit for us is that we were able to leverage our knowledge and expertise to provide a value-added service that went above-and-beyond the reason why she hired us, but is well within the scope of our capabilities.

If you are interested in a win-win partnership, we believe we’re the best at what we do, and we’d be happy to provide you with a free estimate for new gutters and gutter guards. Who knows, if you hire us, you, too, might get a new roof for the cost of your deductible!

Gutter Guards Direct services greater Columbus, including Dublin, Hilliard, Clintonville, Grandview Heights, German Village, Upper Arlington, Worthington, Powell, Pickerington, Plain City, Bexley, Blacklick, Gahanna, Delaware, Granville, Grove City, Westerville, Newark, and New Albany, Ohio.

Call 1-614-356-8164 for a free estimate.

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Knoxville gutters leaking on a 1920s colonial; attention to detail saves the day

photo showing gutters on the side and front of the home with microscreen gutter guards installed over the existing gutters

If you’ve read our blog at www.GutterTalkBlog.com, you’ve likely learned how important it is for your gutters to be pitched properly towards the downspouts in order to drain water. While this concept seems obvious — properly pitching gutters from end-to-end — it is surprisingly difficult to find in practice.

Take this 1920s Knoxville, Tennessee, colonial. When the homeowner contacted us — citing that her recently installed 6” aluminum gutters weren’t performing properly — we found frowning gutters when we visited her home.

knoxville tennessee gutters leaking on 2-story colonial home
BEFORE: Front gutters droop to the left and are higher on the right side, creating an asymmetrical look. 

Generally under-pitched gutters are a problem. But this wasn’t the case. These gutters had plenty of pitch. In fact, I dubbed these gutters “frowning gutters” because they were installed high in the middle and drooped down very far on each end. Looking at the house from the ground, it looked like the gutters were frowning. It was a sad sight!

The homeowner believed was that she had bad wood or no facia boards behind the aluminum fascia wrap and she was worried about critters getting into her attic. Additionally, on the droopiest part, water was spilling over the gutters to the ground because the gutters had disconnected from the house.

To put this into perspective, her gutters were installed about 2 years ago. So she has nearly new gutters that were not working properly.

My recommendation was to reduce the pitch in the gutters by loosening and reconnecting them with the correct pitch by using a level and then installing our MicroScreen US gutter guard that slides under the first course of shingles. This would close any open gaps between the roof decking and the gutters, and would keep out critters and inclement weather.

The homeowner asked that if we found any bad wood, to let her know so she could have it replaced. She had a bad experience with her roofer, who said there was rotted roof decking and charged her for replacing the plywood but never actually replaced the bad wood with new decking. She didn’t want to be burned twice. I reassured her that if we found any bad wood, we’d replace it.

after removing gutter and aluminum fascia wrap, this image shows a worker on the ladder exposing decayed fascia wood
After removing the gutter, our installer is removing aluminum fascia wrap to expose and replace the decayed fascia boards

Once we climbed the ladders, we found that most of the fascia boards had deteriorated to the extent that the wood crumbled in our hands. The gutters had been installed with an extreme slope because it was hard to find good wood into which to attach the screws. Modern day gutter hangers are designed to screw into fascia boards and stay put. These gutters had pulled away from the house on one end. That’s a sign that they either weren’t screwed in to begin with or the wood behind the gutters is bad and the gutters simply pulled away from the boards. In this case, it was the latter. Bad wood abound behind the aluminum fascia wrap. The gutter installers had also nailed the gutters to the facia boards because it was evident that the screws in the hangers were not biting into the wood.

It’s beyond us why the previous gutter installers didn’t alert the homeowner about this issue. We determined that to properly fix the problem, we’d need to remove both upper sections of gutter on the front and back of the house, secure the aluminum soffit panels that were held in place by the aluminum fascia wrap, remove the fascia wrap, and then replace the fascia boards as necessary. We also determined that some of the rafter tails were similarly decayed at the exposed ends, so we may have to sister sections of 2×4 lumber to create nail points for the new 1×8 pine boards that would become the new fascia boards.

In the end, we replaced about 100-feet of wood; we reinstalled the aluminum fascia wrap, rehung the gutters with the correct pitch, and installed MicroScreen US gutter guards. This additional work cost the homeowner about 50% more than the original gutter guard estimate, and it added a second day to the job; however, she and we agreed that it was the only way to correct the problems and do the job right.

AFTER: The frown is gone. Fascia boards were replaced and the gutter was reinstalled and pitched using a level. MicroScreen US gutter guards installed to shed leaves and prevent water from wicking behind the gutter.  

Needless to say, she is pleased with the fact that we kept our word by fixing a problem that would have only gotten worse; we gave her newish gutters a new lease on life, and we installed gutter guards that will no longer require her hiring handymen to clean her gutters.

Why do you think the previous gutter contractor ignored the obvious bad wood issues and didn’t bring it to the homeowners attention so it could be fixed properly the first time?

Have you had a similar experience?

Share your comments below…

If you are experiencing water problems and issues with your gutters in Knoxville, West Knoxville, South Knoxville, Farragut, Clinton, Oak Ridge, Fountain City, Maryville, Alcoa, Sevierville, Kingston, Loudon, Lenoir City, Tellico Village or anywhere else in greater Knoxville, please reach out for assistance at 1-865-622-2141. With over 20-years experience, we can help you assess the source of your water and gutter issues, and provide you with a solution to fix the problems once-and-for-all.

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Gutter Guards Minerva Park, Ohio: Midcentury modern swaps GutterHelmet for MicroScreen

microscreen gutter guards installed on a home in minerva park, ohio

Gutter Guards Minerva Park, Ohio

Within an oasis called Minerva Park, Ohio, gutter guards sit atop an updated midcentury modern ranch home with a large, heavily wooded yard. The trees scattered throughout the yard include some of the worst offenders: oak, locust, and maple trees that drop tassels, tiny flowers and helicopters by the bushelful every spring.

By the time we arrived on the scene, the spring blooms had given way to summer heat, but there were still remnants of the tassels clogging the openings into the gutters.

gutter helmet gutter guard with oak tassels lodges in the opening to the gutter

The homeowners installed GutterHelmet gutter guards on their home in the mid-nineties. At the time, micromesh gutter guards had yet to be invented, and solid gutter covers were the predominant professionally installed gutter guards available. They purchased the top-of-the-line gutter guards of the time and have been pleased with its overall performance.

We see lots of homes with 25-year old gutters, but not many homes have gutter guards that old. The homeowner had a new roof installed a few years ago, and that’s where their problems began.

GutterHelmet installs over the 1st and under the 2nd course of shingles. Homes with this type of gutter guard need to have the gutter guards removed before the new roof is installed, otherwise the roofers cannot access the first course of shingles and the home will be left with different colored shingles around the perimeter of the home if the guards are later removed. In this case, it appears that the roofer removed the gutter guards and reinstalled them after they installed the new roof.

Unfortunately, the gutter guards were reinstalled improperly and the gap between the guard and the gutter opening was inconsistent. In some cases there was ample opening to allow water to enter the gutters and in other instances the guards were pressed against the gutter lip — effectively closing off the gutter to water.

At some point the homeowner added an enclosed porch on the the back of the home, and in order connect the rafters to the house, the contractor removed a section of the existing gutter and gutter guard. What had been a continuous section of gutter was now two ends. The contractor never placed end caps on the gutters, so squirrels were free to access and nest inside the gutters.

gutterhelmet with a missing end cap allows squirrels to enter and nest inside the gutters

Due to these issues, the homeowners decided to shop for new gutter guards. They met with the local GutterHelmet dealer but they wanted to go with new technology — something that would encapsulate their gutters. They liked our Gutter Rx system, but we determined that the size and proximity of the trees to the house would require more maintenance. They ultimately chose MicroScreen US because the fine mesh screen will keep all leaves, oak tassels, and maple seeds out of their gutters. They also liked the idea of MicroScreen’s under shingle installation in order to maintain a consistent forward slope while directing water into the gutters.

Gutter Guards Removal and Installation Process

The roofers nailed GutterHelmet under the shingles, which is a no-no that could void a shingle warranty, so it took several hours to remove the existing gutter guards. There were a handful of areas around the gutters where leaves and debris had built up, but much of the clogging occurred at the gutter mouth opening. Oak tassels collected and hardened at the opening and prevented water from entering into the gutters.

Once we uninstalled the gutter guards, we removed all leaves, and rinsed out the gutters and downspouts; we added two new end caps to keep squirrels and birds out; we resealed several inside and outside corners that were leaking, and we installed MicroScreen US gutter guards.

The homeowners waited for rain, and after a deluge, called us to say that the new gutter guards were working much better than the old system.

microscreen gutter guards installed on midcentury modern home in minerva park ohio.

Gutter Guards Minerva Park Ohio

If you live in Minerva Park and are having issues with your gutters and gutters guards, please call us at 1-614-356-8164 for a no-obligation consultation or complete and submit the form below:

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