How to Clean and Repair Gutters
Do not underestimate the importance of cleaning your gutters. Clogged gutters can cause damage to your roof, cause your basement to flood, destroy landscaping and undermine your home’s foundation. Prevent this damage by cleaning your gutters at least twice yearly — in the spring and fall.
Clean gutters allow water to properly flow away from your home and prevent damage to many parts of your structure, and not just the roof. Stopped-up gutters can destroy soffits, fascia, siding, landscaping and your home's foundation — all of which are costly repairs you can avoid by just cleaning your gutters.
8 Reasons Why You Need to Keep Gutters Clean
1. Avoid flooded basements. You may be surprised to find that clogged gutters are one of the top causes of flooded basements. Foundations are porous. If you don’t divert water away from the foundation, moisture seeps in thus causing the foundation to shift and crack during freeze/thaw cycles. And after a while, water will begin to leach through the foundation causing a flooded basement and mold growth.
2. Prevent damage to soffits and fascia. Properly flowing gutters will prevent damage to the soffits, fascia and soffits. (ICYDK, a soffit is the underside of the roof’s overhang and fascia is the long vertical board that sits at the end of the roofline and bridges the roof to the soffit. An easy way to remember it is soffits are horizontal and the fascia is vertical and “faces out.”) Gutters are attached to the fascia, so if the gutter is full of debris and water, the weight can cause the gutter to rip off the fascia causing damage to both the gutter and the fascia.
3. Save your plants from drowning. Clogged gutters will overflow during heavy rains thus causing damage to the garden beds that sit below. Most common landscape plants such as hydrangea, viburnum, rhododendrons, Japanese maple and junipers all need well-drained soil. Their roots need oxygen so if they sit in puddled water and saturated soil, they can drown in just a day or two.
4. Prevent water from leaking from your ceiling. If rainwater and snow melt can’t be diverted away from the house, all that water is going to pool on your roof and work its way underneath the shingles and eventually cause leaks on the inside of your home.
5. Clean gutters can prevent ice dams. Ice dams happen when snow melts off your roof and then refreezes and fills your gutters with blocks of ice and hanging icicles. The icicles may look pretty, but their weight can cause the gutters to detach from the fascia. Plus, the water and ice can work their way under the roof shingles and cause water leaks in your home.
6. Gutters are expensive. By simply cleaning your gutters out on a regular basis you won’t have to incur the expense of having to replace them.
7. Don’t Give Pests and Critters a Place to Live. A gutter full of leaves and sticks is an attractive nesting place for rodents, bugs and snakes. Yes, snakes. They’ll slither up the downspout to eat the rodents. Those rodents can also chew, causing damage to the fascia and roof.
8. Curb appeal. Clean gutters just look nicer. So, after you clean out the inside of your gutters, use a hose with a high-powered nozzle to remove the dirt, moss and algae that can build up on the outside of the gutters.
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How to Clean Gutters
1. Scoop Out the Debris
Scoop out large debris like leaves and sticks with your hands. Pay particular attention to the downspout. If leaves and debris are clogging it, water won't drain properly, and, along with mildew and mud, you'll end up with sagging gutters. Attach a 5-gallon bucket to the side of the ladder with an extension hook or bungee cord so don't have to clean the debris off the ground later. Tip: The decomposed leaves make great mulch or compost.
2. Find the "Right" Tools
You don't need special tools to remove the debris from your gutters, use what you have lying around the house. A scoop or a trowel works well. To loosen any stuck-on gunk or get into hard-to-reach spots, a paint stir-stick will do the trick.
3. Flush It Out With Water
Find the start of the gutter run. It will be on the opposite side of the downspout. Use the jet setting on the spray nozzle of your garden hose to wash away the remaining debris. Make sure the downspout has water running out of the bottom and isn’t clogged.
4. Tighten Screws/Check Gutter Spikes + Ferrules
Use a drill with a hex bit to tighten loose bolts on the gutter's brackets. If you have spikes and ferrules (large bolts with sheathing), check that all the spikes go through the gutter and into the fascia board and rafter behind it. If they are loose, broken or rusted, replace or re-fasten them where necessary. If replacing spikes or brackets, be sure to get aluminum, galvanized or stainless steel so they won’t rot and rust.
5. Check for Cracks and Holes
Check the length of the gutters for leaks, and be on the lookout for holes and cracked caulking in the seams. Use an old chisel to scrape the old caulking out and dry the area thoroughly. Use new bead silicon sealing to keep water from getting behind the gutters and rotting the boards.
6. Inspect Downspouts
Check that the downspouts and their connections are tight and sturdy. Make sure to take a good look at the rivets. It's not uncommon for them to become loose or have dropped out completely. Use a rivet gun to re-secure them. Rivets and rivet guns are available at most hardware stores.
7. Add A Diverter
If you don't have them already, add diverters at the bottom of the downspouts so water runs away from the house to protect your foundation.
8. Clean the Outside of the Gutter
Grime and mold can build up on the exterior of the gutter permanently staining it and making your house look dirty. You can use a pressure washer to clean the outside of the gutters, but be careful not to damage your roof shingles. A pressure washer can easily remove the top coating on an asphalt shingle. The key is to avoid hitting the gutters at too high an angle so you won't hit the shingles.
If the gutters are rusting, you might want to consider new gutters. But if you're going to stay with the old ones, get all the rust off, sand them down, paint them with a good primer and then with a good-quality rust-inhibiting paint.
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