How Often Should You Clean Your Gutters?

published on 06 October 2022

What Is the Importance of Cleaning Your Gutters?

Maintenance in our lives is very important. We need to maintain our health, maintain our families, and maintain our homes. This seems like a no brainer but always seems to be overlooked. Since we, as humans, use our senses primarily, we don’t always see an issue until sometimes too late. Ensuring our home is maintained is also no easy feat. There are so many moving parts, we’re just happy when the walls stay up and the heat stays in during the winter. 

However, what often happens is that we forget a critical component of our home, which is our gutters on the roof. Not everyone thinks these are important, but if you are in an area that gets a lot of rainfall (and we all know Pennsylvania does), then these are critical. They help provide a route to collect and drain rainwater off your roof, and into designated places. This helps reduce water and moisture build-up and ensures longevity with your home components. 

For most of the US, we get all kinds of weather, from rain to snow to hail, too hot and humid summers. As the seasons shift, our roofs accumulate a lot of items via the gutters, which are the arteries of the house and are needed for proper drainage. This accumulation of nature is affectionately referred to as gunk. 

We’re going to cover several topics related to how often, why, and how to clean our gutters. Keep in mind that there are several tools out there, including a gutter guard that could potential reduce how much cleaning needs to be done. But even with these tools in place, you still need to check twice a year and clean your gutters as needed.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. With preventative maintenance for your home, hour for hour, there is no more important task that a homeowner could be doing. Gutters play an oversized role in the protecting the value of the home we live in. While it may not seem like a big deal, clogged gutters can cause huge (read expensive) problems and compromise the structural integrity of your home.

Three Reasons You Need to Clean Your Clogged Gutters Yesterday!

It’s just rainwater coming down, right? Mother nature’s life source. Wouldn’t I just use water to clean water? It makes no sense, right? Mother Nature is beautiful, but also very messy and dirty. This is not filtered water hitting your roof and entering your gutters. This is a mix of rainfall, leaves, bugs, dirt and manmade materials that might come off the roofs, all to form that gunk that will clog your gutters faster than a double cheeseburger can clog one’s arteries.

• Clogged gutters will damage your roof, leading to costly roof repairs and replacements much sooner than otherwise necessary.

• Gutters filled with debris are an ideal breeding ground and home for rats, snakes, insects and all the rest of our least favorite variety of God’s creatures.

• A clogged gutter system causes the water to flow incorrectly and instead of leading towards the yard or the street, it could lead directly to the home’s foundation.

Let’s dive into each to give a better understanding of what’s at stake with clogged, nasty gutters.

Clogged Gutters Will Damage Your Roof, Leading to Costly Roof Repairs and Replacements Much Sooner Than Otherwise Necessary

Your roof is all that’s standing between you and the variety of elements we have here in the US. From the blistering summer sun to the snowy blizzard conditions of the winter, our roof has one job; keeping us comfortable and safe. Gutters play a huge role in protecting the integrity of the roof, as their sole job is to divert the rainwater away from the places it can do the most and most expensive damage. One of those critical places is the roof, which when water can penetrate its upper surface will quickly rot and disintegrate, causing to water and moisture in the places we least want it.

If you are living near a wooded area especially, it might always be a good idea after a major storm to check the status of your gutters. This is more of a status check than a need to clean, just to make sure that you don’t need to move up the timetable for your cleaning. 

Gutters Filled With Debris Is an Ideal Breeding Ground and Home for Rats, Snakes, and Insects

All that humidity and moisture is a bug’s best friend. This is especially true for mosquitos and other similar bugs. Not only can dead pets get in the way and help form the ooze that will need to be cleaned up, but these gutters could also actually become a home to them. And they could literally start eating up your house and cause some serious damage. 

Snakes find their way into dirty gutter systems because of an abundance of things to eat, like mice, rats, small birds, and large insects. Mosquitos, which have even this year been found to be carrying West Nile Virus, make their home and breed in the moist areas of the gutter that pool water because of debris. If spending time outdoors is an activity your family enjoys, it will benefit you to maintain the integrity of a healthy gutter system.

A Clogged Gutter System Causes the Water to Flow Incorrectly and Instead of Leading Towards the Yard or the Street, It Could Lead Directly to the Homes Foundation

This will lead to cracking in the stone, concrete, block and wood foundations as water penetrates in both freezing and thawing. Water is the number one cause of a cracked foundation, which can cost tens of thousands to fix. Of course, assuming structural foundation damage can even be fixed.

Ok – Thank You for the Scare – How Often Should I Clean These Gutters

A typical asphalt roof, while perhaps having a 25-30 year lifespan, will be dramatically cut short, necessitating replacement simply by not cleaning your gutters. Assuming you treat your body with better care than your house, a simple rule of thumb is to schedule a gutter cleaning at the same time you schedule your semi-annual tooth cleaning. That way twice per year leaves, debris, sticks, bird’s nests, insects and whatever else finds its way to your gutters can be quickly and efficiently dealt with before an issue arises. This is the bare minimum. As mentioned above, depending on how bad a storm was, or how much wildlife is around you, it might require multiple check-ins throughout the year. We also recommend, based on the wide variety of weather in the Greater Pennsylvania area, that possibly upping the cleaning to quarterly. It’s easier to clean a gutter than to have to remove clogs or replace them altogether. 

How Can I Clean the Gutters Myself and When Is It Time to Call a Professional?

Gutters are easy to clean. The biggest issue is how, well frankly, disgusting it can be. That and how comfortable you feel being on a ladder for hours at a time. Unless you’re an amateur handyman of any sort, it might be best to look at contacting your local roofing experts, as they will have the right roofing supplies and gutter cleaning equipment. While they are there on site, they can always do a quick assessment if all you need is just a cleaning, or if there is the potential of an underlying issue that is ready to spring up. Cleaning is not always a costly service, and if you hire a professional, you can stay clean and feel confident in a job well done. Where it gets expensive is if someone has not cleaned it regularly and there are issues that need to be dealt with to get your gutters back to tip-top shape.

If you fancy yourself as something of a handyman, or you like to get your hands dirty, and we mean really dirty, then find that old pair of Galoshes and overalls you bought once, and prepare to get into the muck. Wear full coverings and work gloves as well, because you might clean things you don’t want to even think about. In addition, wear long sleeve clothing in case of contact with pests of the stinging or biting variety that have grown fond of their new home.

Now that you have made peace with the fact that you will do this yourself, make sure you have a sturdy ladder with a ladder stabilizer. This is a very important step because you do not want to accidentally damage the gutter. Without this stabilizer, the ladder will be propped against the gutter, which can push it down and break it. Let’s focus on one issue at a time and ensure that we’re using the right tools. 

Besides the ladder, you need something to scoop up the gunk. Use your hands if you want to, but it is better if you use a tool designed for the job. Most hardware stores sell a gutter scooper that can be used to quickly and safely remove the gunk out of the gutters without damaging your gutters. Keep in mind that if you want to use something different, make sure it’s made of plastic. It is all about preserving your gutters during the cleaning process.

Place some sort of tarp or something on the ground to pick up all the gunk and throw it away later. You do not want this all over your home in random piles of gunk. It can be unsanitary and also will not be aesthetically pleasing. 

After all, the major and obvious potential blockages are removed, take a garden hose and rinse the gutters as needed. If you did everything right, it should have the same effect as clean rain gently going down the length of your gutter system. 

Doing a Spot Inspection After the Cleanup

After cleaning up the mess (and yourself), check to see if there are any dents or sagging in your gutter set-up. These can be easy to fix, but can also be included when using a local contractor who’s doing the heavy lifting of cleaning, anyway. 

Again, although this is a completely doable DIY, gutter cleaning can be a lot of work. There’s also a lot of strain on the body, as you’re constantly standing on your feet and slowly moving down the gutter to clean it. Cleaning is also best done before winter, as all the gunk can convert into ice dams with the cold air. This will lead to water damage on your roofing and house as well as possibly collapse the gutter where the dam is. 

Regardless of your approach to this situation, gutter cleaning and maintenance is an often overlooked task that most people only notice when they see what is the equivalent of a beaver dam blocking their drainage. Do yourself, your family and your home a favor, and give it a proper gutter cleanse. Your house will thank you.  

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