After The Beauty Of Fall Foliage: The Beast Of Gutter Cleaning

As the saying goes: "If you dance to the music, you must pay the piper." The beautiful colors of autumn leaves put on a spectacle that can last for weeks. However, as the chill of winter approaches, and the leaves fall, many homeowners will only think of cleaning up the leaves accumulating on the ground. They should also be looking up at their gutters, which are likely filled with wet clumps of leaves that need to be removed. 

What's so bad about leaves in gutters?

Wet leaves form into clumps which inhibit the flow of rainwater along your gutters and down the downspout. If water accumulates, the combined weight of the water, wet leaves, dirt, and other debris will cause gutters to pull away from the exterior wall.

This creates an opportunity for water to overflow behind the gutter and cause eventual deterioration of the fascia board to which the gutter is attached. As the fascia becomes compromised by water damage, the gutter is more easily pulled away even further, causing the gutter to sag and possibly fall to the ground.

In addition, as winter's freezing temperatures arrive, the water behind the gutter freezes and expands, assisting in separating the gutter from the exterior wall.

The basics of gutter cleaning

After Halloween, when the last of the major leaf drop has occurred, is a good time to clean out your gutters. You can even combine tasks and install icicle Christmas lights on your gutters after you have finished cleaning. It's much nicer up on the extension ladder in early November than closer to Christmas, when the cold winter winds start to blow.

What you will need:

  • An extension ladder that reaches the area just below the gutters
  • A gutter cleaning tool, resembling a narrow hand spade, or a similar tool for scooping muck from a four-inch wide gutter
  • Work gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges and to keep them clean

If your gutters have become clogged with dirt, leaves, and other debris, and the water has slowly drained or evaporated away, the muck that is left behind may have become dried and hardened by the sun, so you may need to scoop it out with some effort. However, you must be careful not to exert too much force, because if the dirt clump breaks away suddenly, you could strike your hand against a sharp section of the gutter or lose your balance and fall.

Clean away all of the leaves that may be covering the solid muck so you can see its thickness. If you're in luck, the solid mass may lift out of the gutter in a long strip that you can simply pull up and over the edge. Be sure to clear the area around the downspout opening of any possible blockages.

If the gutter feels loose, you may need to secure it by hammering in the gutter spikes (nails) or tightening the gutter screws with a drill if screws were used to secure the clamps that hold the gutter in place. If it still feels loose, you may need a roofing or gutter professional to inspect the fascia board for water damage.

If the gutter is secure, and you intend to put up icicle lights or other decorations, put on the light clips and string the lights as you clean each section of gutter. You'll save both time and your leg muscles by ascending the ladder only once for both cleaning and decorating in each section.

For further assistance, contact local professionals, such as those from Mr. Gutter.