Winter is here – time to safely clean your gutters

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The job of your home’s gutters is to drain the water from the roof to the downspouts. When the gutter is clogged or sagging, the water collects there, where it can rust a metal gutter or degrade a wooden one. If there’s too much, that water can feed back to the fascia boards, causing more costly damage to your home.

Cleaning your gutters twice a year (spring and fall) can protect your home by preventing sagging, clogged, and bent gutters. Before you climb up the ladder, prepare yourself to safely clean your gutter.

  1. Watch out for power lines. Look at any power lines that connect to your roof from a power pole. Make sure the cable’s insulation is intact. If you have any questions or doubts, contact your electric utility company.
  2. Place a tarp on the ground. Save yourself the additional step of raking up the debris you remove from the gutter. Lay a tarp or drop cloth on the ground below the area where you’re cleaning. When you’re done, just bundle it up and transfer to a trash bag.
  3. Do a safety check on the ladder. Most gutter cleaning accidents involve a faulty ladder. Confirm the weight-bearing load is enough to support you. Check your ladder’s safety by looking for dents, cracks, and loose bolts or screws. Set it up firmly and bounce a few times on the bottom rung to push the base into the ground and ensure it’s secure. Be sure someone nearby knows you’re going to be on a ladder.
  4. Equip yourself with the right gutter cleaning tools. You should have a small garden trowel or gutter scoop to dig out the debris. Have a stiff brush to scrub away any stubborn materials. Wear garden or work gloves to protect your hands from sharp objects, like exposed screws. Have a spray nozzle on your hose and clamp it to the edge of the gutter while you’re cleaning. Wear safety glasses in case the hose kicks up something that could cause an injury to your eyes,
  5. Start from the downspout. Begin removing the leaves and dirt from the low end of the gutter, closest to the downspout. If you start at the high point, you might end up pushing more build-up downward, instead of out.
  6. Hose out the gutter. After you’ve cleared out a section, hose it down. Take note of the drainage in the downspout. If it’s draining slowly, you probably need to clean it out before proceeding, to remove whatever has built up in there.
  7. Check the gutters and downspouts. As you move along, make sure the gutters are strongly attached to the fascia boards. Inspect the board for dry rot. Look for rusting, flaking, or leaks on the downspouts. Replace any parts that are weakened or damaged.

Invest a little time twice a year in safely cleaning your gutters, and you’ll go a long way toward protecting your home.