It’s Probably Time to Clean Your Gutters

It’s Probably Time to Clean Your Gutters

Yes, it's a task that you dread, but avoiding it could spell potential disaster for your roof.

There’s a laundry list of regular tasks you have to do to keep your home up to snuff. You should check your HVAC, clean your dryer vent (yes, really), wash the windows, and like clockwork, you’ll inevitably need to clean your gutters.

But how often do you have to do it? Are there any ways around it? And most importantly for the people in the cheap seats in the back, can you do it yourself?

When to Clean Your Gutters

"You should clean your gutters at least once a year," says Mallory Micetich, a home expert at Angi. "I recommend cleaning your gutters in autumn after the leaves fall. If you live in an area with a lot of trees, you should consider cleaning your gutters again in the spring to remove any debris from the colder months."

In other words, this is something to look forward to before the end of the year, and again when you have spring cleaning on the brain. Once a year may be fine in some places, but there are also climate and location considerations to factor in.

"If you live in an area with heavy rainfall, you may need to clean your gutters more frequently," says Richard Corliss, customer training manager at The Home Depot. "Similarly, regions with lots of trees may require more frequent cleaning due to falling leaves and branches."

This can be somewhat mitigated by installing gutter guards, aka nets that go on the top of gutters. But there’s no hack that makes cleaning unnecessary, and even if you have gutter guards, you can’t put this part of your house out of sight and out of mind.

"Regardless of the schedule, it's essential to regularly inspect your gutters for signs of clogs or damage," Corliss says. "Look for overflowing water during rain, sagging gutters, or visible debris."

Why You Need to Clean Them So Often

Gutter cleaning is not anyone’s idea of a fun Sunday, but it shouldn’t be ignored.

"Gutters have a very important role in your home," Micetich says. "They protect your roof, walls and foundation by moving rainwater away from your home. Over time, leaves, sticks and other debris can build up in your gutters and create blockages."

The best way to keep blockages from happening is, you guessed it, cleaning your gutters on a regular basis. Clogged gutters can lead to bigger issues. Rainwater can spill over and pool around your foundation, causing damage. This can also lead to basement flooding. Keeping them clean also staves off a huge, unwelcome expense: roof repair and replacement. "Clogged gutters can trap water on your roof, which can lead to rotting, shingle damage, and leaks," Corlilss says.

There are other things you’re protecting by performing this task regularly, like your landscaping. Excess water can cause erosion in your beds. And you’re also keeping backyard invaders out. "Clogged gutters can become a breeding ground for pests like mosquitoes and rodents. Stagnant water in gutters provides an ideal environment for these unwanted visitors," Corliss says. He also adds that cleaning them can prevent ice dam formations in colder climates and generally extends their lifespan.

Can You Clean Your Gutters Yourself?

 Sure, you can clean your gutters yourself. But really, the answer to this question is another question: do you really want to? Micetich says you should only do this task if you’re experienced and comfortable using a ladder. If you’re not, it’s worth enlisting the help of a professional.

As with many things, doing it yourself is the most cost-effective, but this is only a task you should take on if you feel comfortable. Micetich says safety should be your foremost concern. Use an extension ladder that’s placed on firm, level ground, and make sure you have a spotter. Wear gloves and safety goggles if you have them. Beyond that, it’s a pretty straightforward process. (If you have gutter guards on, check them regularly—they may need to be cleaned all the same.)

"After you remove debris from your gutters, remember to check your downspouts by running a stream of water through them with a strong hose," Micetich says.

Maybe you read all that and your eyes glaze over or you feel a strong sense of task-evading. In that case, that’s why gutter cleaning services exist—or ask your handyman. Just don’t kick this task to next year, or else you could end up with bigger problems on your hands.

Top illustration by Scott Wilson

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