By Lauren White, RCS Assistant Editor.
In preparation for the stormy winter months ahead, gutter cleaning and repair should be a homeowner’s top priority. Below are nine ways to keep your gutters clean, allow water to flow freely through your gutter system, and keep your roof draining properly all winter.
1 – Wear the right gear
When cleaning out your gutters, wear strong, thick, flexible gloves to protect your hands from the debris and any sharp metal you might not be able to see. Wear comfortable and appropriate footwear since you’ll be standing on a ladder.
2 – Lay out a tarp
Underneath the ladder, lay a tarp down. This will help spare your lawn from the mess, keep all the debris in one place and makes for an easier cleanup.
3 – Clean out leaves and debris
You don’t need a fancy tool to clean out your gutters, an old plastic spatula will suffice. A spatula won’t scratch the gutter, you can cut it to fit into tight corners and other contours in your gutter, and it’s easy to cleanup. A garden trowel or other narrow scooper also work well to scoop out the water and to speed up the process. For clumps of wet leaves and clogged downspouts, a plumber’s snake is effective.
4 – Flush gutters with a hose
When you’re done scooping out debris, hose the gutters to make sure everything is cleaned out. To ensure the whole system is flushed out, keep the hose on until you see water coming out of the downspout.
5 – Check for damage
As you’re cleaning out your gutters, pay attention to their condition. Look for warps, bends, wrinkles or breaks in your gutters. Also check for any nails that might be falling out, shingle pieces in the gutter, loose screws or gaps between the gutters and the walls or roof where they’re attached. Contact a professional contractor to repair any issues.
6 – Have sagging gutters repaired
Some homeowners may opt to make these repairs themselves by mounting a gutter hanger, but we advise you contact a professional to avoid causing unwanted damage to your roof. A contractor will, “Hook the hanger under the front edge and over the back edge of the gutter,” shares Family Handyman. For a stronger connection, the hanger should be screwed into a rafter. Your contractor will add hangers approximately every three feet along the length of your gutters.
There is another style of gutter hanger that slides under the shingles and is then nailed to the roof boards. However, it’s important to make sure your shingles are flexible enough to be lifted up without breaking, which could cause you much more than a gutter repair.
7 – Get leaking end caps sealed
A professional contractor can complete this task for you. If you choose to DIY this task, Family Handyman suggests that you, “Scour off oxidation around the seam or end cap with a scrub brush or coarse steel wool.” Next, rinse with water and let it dry. “Squirt a bead of sealer around the seam or end cap and work it in with a gloved finger [and] let it dry,” according to Family Handyman.
8 – Add gutter covers
Gutter covers help reduce the amount of leaves, twigs and other debris that enter your gutter system. Before having gutter covers installed, make sure the gutters are cleaned out.
9 – Install gutter and roof heating cables
For those of you who live in areas that get cold in the winter, gutter heating products are a great investment because they help prevent ice dams. Make sure you get a heated cable that is designed for gutters and rooftops. It’s best to have this cable installed by a professional during the fall when it’s drier outside.
When these cables are installed, the contractor will start at one corner of your roof and zigzag from the overhang to the warm area of your roof, creating triangles approximately 15 inches wide. The contractor will then use brackets to secure the cable to each shingle where the cable bends. Finally, the cable will be run inside your gutter and down the downspout, then plugged into a GFI (grounded) outlet.
Have a question? AskARoofer.