The Problem of Clogged Gutters

The Problem of Clogged GuttersOne of the most common threats to a home is also among the most overlooked. Even among the most conscious homeowners, gutters often go unattended. Over time, leaves and other debris piles up and causes clogs, which can lead to serious problems if left unchecked. This can ultimately lead to declining property value and costly repairs, and can even pose health and safety risks.

The Issue

When gutters become clogged, water is no longer efficiently moved away from the home. This can cause water to leak and pool, causing a range of water-related problems. One of the most common areas that water begins to pool is the foundation of your home. This can eventually weaken the foundation and cause cracks as water infiltrates the concrete. This damage is further increased during winter, when freezing water expands and widens cracks.

Pooling and leaking water also poses a risk to roofs, ceilings and wooden fascia within a home. Because water is no longer moved away from the home, it begins to leak through the roof. This can cause damage to any underlying ceilings, as well as the roof itself. Exposed wood fascia may also be at risk of rotting and decomposing due to extended exposure to water. Siding may also be at risk, as backed up water seeps behind it and causes separation and water damage. Repairing damaged roofs, ceilings, siding and wooden fascia can become incredibly costly and time-consuming, and damage can sometimes be difficult to find.

In addition to structural damage, overflowing or pooling water can cause a number of health and safety risks. Water damage may cause a loss of structural integrity, even causing partial collapse in some cases. Water infiltration also creates ideal conditions for mold growth. Once it begins to grow, mold is notoriously difficult and costly to remove, and is more likely to reappear in the future. Finally, pooling water may serve as a breeding ground for insects. In particular, mosquitoes often breed in pooled water resulting from clogged gutters. Mosquitoes are common carriers of a number of diseases, and standing water can draw a large population fairly quickly.

Another threat that is often overlooked or ignored is increased risk from wildfires. In areas that don’t experience much rain, clogged gutters may become littered with dry, extremely flammable leaves and other debris. This provides the tinder for even a small spark to start a fire. Many areas that are prone to wildfires, such as California and Arizona, require that homes maintain clean gutters and install covers to prevent such buildup from becoming a fire hazard.

Cleaning your Gutters

To avoid these and other issues, it is recommended that gutters be cleaned every three months. During the fall and early winter, when leaves fall from trees more frequently, gutters should be cleaned as frequently as once per month. Although cleaning gutters is fairly straightforward, the method varies depending on whether the leaves and debris are wet or dry. In either case, a ladder and leaf scooper will be necessary.

For gutters with wet or damp contents, there are two options for cleaning. The first involves placing a large tarp on the ground beneath the gutter. The gutter contents can then be scooped up and dumped on the tarp until the gutter is clear. The tarp can then be carried to a compost heap or other disposal site, and the process can be repeated for each gutter. The second option requires that a bucket be carried up the ladder or hooked to the end of each gutter. Gutter contents can then be scooped into the bucket and disposed of properly.

If the gutter’s contents are dry, the process is much simpler. The easiest method for cleaning dry gutters is to attach a large, heavy duty trash bag to each end of the gutter. Contents can then be pushed to each end of the gutter, starting from the middle and working out, and emptied into the bags for easy removal and disposal. Once the gutter is cleared of leaves and larger debris, any remaining debris must be cleared out. This can be done by using a garden spade or kitchen spatula, scooping the resulting debris into the bucket.

The final step is to clear the downspout and rinse the gutter. Downspouts can generally be cleared by using a common garden hose. Place the hose in the top of the downspout, packing a towel or rag around it to make a tight seal. Turn the water on full pressure until any blockages are dislodged. If this fails to dislodge the blockage, it may be necessary to use a plumbing snake to break up the obstruction. Once the obstruction is removed, use the hose to rinse the gutters and ensure they are working properly.

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