For many of us, our home is our single most valuable asset. We can work for years to be able to afford a house, and keeping it in good repair is of utmost importance.
An area that is significant to maintain is the gutters and keeping debris off the roof. Gutters are an indispensable part of a home’s exterior. A gutter is a shallow trough, usually made of vinyl or metal, that is fixed beneath the edge of a roof.
Gutters serve the function of diverting rainwater away from the walls and foundation of your home. This diversion helps prevent foundation erosion, wood rot and damage to your landscaping.
Without gutters, or if your gutters are clogged with debris, this can cause damage to your main investment. The undiverted rainwater can erode the ground next to your foundation. When this happens, the water can seep down along the foundation and create basement leaks and structural instability.
Leaves, twigs and other debris will clog gutters, and if the gutters are not cleaned out, you run the risk in cold months of ice dams forming at the edge of the roof. The ice dam can seep underneath shingles and down into insulation and ceilings, creating quite a lot of mess and damage.
It is best to clean your gutters twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall before winter arrives. While the absolute safest way to clean your gutters is to have a professional do it, the majority of us cannot afford the twice a year expense and need to do it ourselves.
Knowing that cleaning gutters and removing any debris from the roof top is not something to be ignored, we need to know how to do so in the safest manner possible.
Weather or Not
Check the weather before launching into the gutter cleaning process. A monsoon, lightning storm, tornado or hurricane is not the time to get the urge to clean on top of the roof. Resist the urge until the weather cooperates.
Climbing the Ladder of Success
Unless you are over twelve feet tall, you will need to start with a ladder. There are many types of ladders out there to choose from, and a few things to consider before using one.
A four legged step ladder would be good for a single story house, but you will need an extension ladder for a two story home.
A wooden ladder is not recommended as they can be wobbly and harder to balance than a metal ladder.
Fiberglass ladders are among the sturdiest, but unfortunately, they are also the heaviest. The weight will be a matter to contend with as you move the ladder around the house.
Make sure to check the ladder over for any loose screws, bent parts or defects before using it. The time to look for hazards is before your climb on the ladder.
If you are using a step ladder, have the extension hinge arm fully extended and locked in place.
It is best to have a ladder that has a small, strong shelf that can hold a five gallon bucket. The bucket will hold the debris that you collect from the gutters. Clean from the ladder, not the roof.
Remember that there might be all manner of objects...or living things...in the gutter. Worms, small birds or mice might be roaming around. Bees and wasps will search out the trapped water in a gutter. Keep that in mind so that if you come across any of those creatures, you are not startled and risk falling off the ladder.
A preferable way for me, personally, to clean gutters is not to get up on a ladder at all. I am not good with heights, and don’t even like being as tall as I am. (5’ 6”) Plus my balance is not what it used to be.
To avoid the whole ladder climbing, hauling around thing, I find that a tool that can be used to remove leaves and debris while standing safely on the ground is my best bet. The Gutter Fingers tool has been both effective and efficient in removing debris clogging my gutters.
The tool is also good for removing branches from the roof, or the occasional frisby that went astray. And I can do it from ground level.
Better Satfe than Sorry
If you don’t have a Gutter Fingers tool, you will still need to haul out the ladder. If this is the case, you want to make absolutely sure you do two things.
The first is to let someone know that you will be up on a ladder working on the gutters. It is better to be safe than sorry. Accidents can happen quickly, and having someone watching out for you and able to call for help if needed can save your life.
The second thing you need to do before cleaning your gutters is to look up. Ensure that you and your ladder will not be touching any power lines. If there are power lines or cables running to your rooftop, visually inspect them to see if there is any damage or wear and tear to the lines.
If you do see damage to any lines, call to get it fixed before you attempt to work on the gutters. Remember that the debris in the gutters will probably be damp and that water is a conductor of electricity. Again, be safe rather than sorry.
Give it the White Glove Treatment
Protect your hands from the debris that you will be removing from the gutters. You can have sharp debris, even glass or metal, and bird and squirrel droppings in the gutters.
I can attest that this stuff is icky, oozy, and smells to high heaven. Rubber (unless the thick, dishwashing type) and cotton gloves are too thin for sharp debris.
Leather can be less maneuverable and leather does not like getting wet. A thick suede glove works the best, as it is durable and flexible.
You don’t want to get poked with the bacteria filled gunk that inhabits the bottom of the gutter, so make sure you protect your hands and save a trip to the doctor for a tetanus shot.
You've Got Such Beautiful Eyes
Protect those eyes! Even the smallest amount of debris can hurt when you get it in your eyes. There is mold, bacteria and animal droppings in a gutter and you do not want any of that splashing into your eyes.
Don’t risk scratching the cornea by not protecting your eyes, it is such a simple thing to do.
Wear The Right Shoes
You are going to need a good grip on the rungs of the ladder or if you are getting debris off the roof. Avoid going on the roof in the early morning as it will still be damp and the surface will be slippery..
Rubber soled shoes that are sturdy tend to grip better. Don’t wear anything flimsy and that does not give you good traction.
As we said at the beginning, cleaning out gutters is one job that cannot be neglected. If you do so, you run the risk of incurring substantial damage to the most major investment you have: your home.
Let unattended, the damage can cost thousands to put right. Far better to maintain and keep your gutters clean by doing twice a year maintenance. It is not on anyone's “favorite activity” list, but is essential nonetheless.
It is so very important that you follow the safety precautions we mentioned above. Not doing so could cost you more in injury and time spent healing, and no one wants to be sidelined.
I am at the stage of the game where I cannot do the gutters on a ladder and really can’t afford to hire it done. I made the minimal investment of the Gutter Fingers tool and can now do it myself while standing safely on the ground.
The stuff still stinks, and is an oozy, yucky mess but I am not adding any risk factor to protecting my investment by being on a ladder or the roof. I am safely on the ground and enjoying the view at 5’ 6”.