Your gutters don’t clean themselves. Every time it rains or the wind starts to blow, nature deposits water, soil, leaves and who knows what else into the humble gutter system.
Gutters help prevent water and debris from damaging your house by moving them away from doors and windows, siding, the foundation and garden beds. Not to mention, they keep water and debris from getting inside your house, or eroding the ground around it.
And the task of keeping your gutters unclogged and unfettered is entirely yours. Thankfully though, maintaining them is a relatively uncomplicated job, one that’s best done as a preventative measure. Before the weather gets worse, I would consider accomplishing this task as soon as possible, especially if you have a faulty gutter system. Doing so will ensure you have an effective gutter system for years to come.
First, climb a ladder. Your first line of defense is to climb up on your roof and take a look at the condition of your gutters, and even before that, you’ve got to get yourself a good ladder.
A ladder is a tool, and it’s important to use the right tool for the job. Select an extension step ladder that will reach the work area with a little room to spare, and be sure it is sturdy enough to hold you, your tools and other work materials without coming apart or falling to the ground.
When choosing a ladder, also take into account what the ladder is made from. For instance, metal ladders conduct electricity and can create a danger of electrocution. If the area around your work project has a lot of wires or live circuits close by, choose a ladder made from fiberglass or aluminum.
If labeled multipurpose, you can use this ladder as a step, extension, stairway or plank support ladder. Ladders can be heavy-duty or extra-heavy duty. They can also include slip-resistant rungs, pail shelves, rag racks, drill holsters and tool trays. Ladders with a platform hoist are usually used by professionals for big roof jobs.
The right ladder for the job. Other safety suggestions for working with or on a ladder:
- Generally designed for use by one person (unless otherwise specified in duty rating)
- Use a ladder if you are in good physical condition
- Where possible, have a second person hold ladder in place while in use
- Keep ladder free from dirt and slippery materials (keep your shoes clean too)
- Always open ladder fully and lock spreaders before climbing
- Place on firm level surface with a secure footing
- Windy conditions require extra caution
- Never leave a ladder set up and unattended, especially around children
- When climbing up or down, face ladder, maintain a firm grip with both hands and keep body centered between side rails
- Move ladder to accommodate reach
- Avoid “walking” ladder when standing on it
- Do not stand higher than 3 ft. from the top of the ladder
- Do not stand, climb or sit on ladder top, pail shelf, braces or back section
- Set ladder at proper angle by placing your toes against the bottom –
- Stand erect – extend your arms straight out
- When palms of your hands contact the top of the rung, which is about shoulder level, ladder is at approximately the proper angle
- Do not place in front of door opening toward ladder
Once you’ve climbed up on a ladder and inspected your gutters, you may need a garden hose and bucket, chisel and sealant, a rivet gun and paint, rubber gloves or a pressure washer to clean and repair gutters.
Get the goop out. Clean away any leaves or debris left in the gutter and the downspouts, making sure to clear clogs that hinder proper drainage, which causes sagging gutters.
Check: Spikes, leaks, rivets. Next, check all the spikes that hold the gutter to the house, making sure they fasten securely. If not, they need to be replaced with new ones. If the gutters themselves contain holes or the seam caulking is cracked, use a chisel to scrape old caulking out. Dry the area thoroughly, then repair with a new bead of silicon sealant, roofing cement or metal-repair patch – whichever matches the gutter material. Make sure the rivets on the downspout are tight and intact, otherwise be sure and replace them.
Ooo, power tools! You can clean gutters with the old-school method of a garden hose and bucket. However, if you’ve secured your gutters with new screws or spikes – and love power tools – consider using a pressure washer. If you choose this route, follow manufacturer’s instructions specifically, setting the washer to the lowest pressure and using the appropriate water or cleaner. Take care when aiming the water stream at the gutters, so you don’t blow the roof shingles off!
Got rust? If the gutters are rusting, sand them down and paint with a good primer and a rust-inhibiting paint. Or buy a new gutter system altogether.
Not just for decoration. Installing a splash block on the ground below a downspout keeps water from digging a trench next to the house and away from the home’s foundation.
About the Author
Tempe Thompson is a sales and inventory expert at Runyon Equipment Rental. She has over 35 years of experience and has accumulated a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise. She could talk for hours about how to use all of Runyon’s tools and equipment, in addition to suggesting which type corresponds to a certain application.