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Essential Gutter Cleaning Tools

Cleaning the gutters seems straightforward enough – gunk collected in the gutter system has to be removed. Most people agree that when you have the right tools for the job it makes the task at hand easier and more manageable. These essential gutter cleaning tools will help you get the results you want – thoroughly cleaned gutters free of debris.

Good Ladder

The ladder you choose for your gutter cleaning chore should be strong and sturdy. It should also be the right ladder for the job – a 10’ step ladder is great for a one-storey home, but not for a house that’s two or more storeys. A straight or extension ladder that has a standoff will protect aluminum gutters from being dented. A ladder that includes a shelf is the best place for a pail and the gutter cleaning tools you’re not using at the moment but need close to hand.

Garden Hose

Unless you’re a gutter cleaning professional, power and pressure washers might damage gutters and/or create damp areas ideal for moss/mold/mildew growth. In this case, a garden hose is the most economical and safe tool for cleaning the gutters. Attaching a pistol-grip spray nozzle allows you to control the direction and amount of water, and it can be hooked on the side of the ladder when not in use.

Gutter Scoop

A gutter scoop, unlike a garden trowel, is specifically designed with high sides to contain the debris until it can be disposed of. To avoid scratching the bottom of the gutter, select a plastic gutter scoop over a metal one.

Soft Bristle Brush

A soft all-purpose bristle brush can be used to scrub dirt, stains, and silt from the bottom of the gutter. You can also use it to clean the outside or face of the gutters. When choosing one with a handle, select a bristle brush with a handle on the top rather than the side – it will be easier to maneuver inside the gutter channel.

Protective Gear

A good pair of heavy work gloves will protect your hands from scrapes and germs. Wear safety glasses or safety goggles to guard against splashes and flying debris. Rubber-soled shoes help keep you from slipping when climbing a ladder or walking on the roof.

Fall Curb Appeal

Crisp air, leaves changing colour, orange pumpkins, and bright yellow chrysanthemums – there is something very special about autumn. Adding seasonal touches to your home’s exterior is a simple way to update your curb appeal.

Decorate the Front Door

Transform the front door by hanging a garland of autumn leaves, trailing vines, or branches combined with small gourds. Pair the garland with a matching wreath.

Window Boxes

Another way to bring the spirit of fall to your front yard is to add window boxes. Fall flowers and seasonal grasses give color to the landscaping and lend charm to your home. When choosing the kind of window box, consider the type of material that will fit in with your home’s exterior. Wood boxes tend to add a rustic feel, while copper and iron window boxes provide a more traditional look.

Cleaning the Exterior

Clean the exterior of your home to remove accumulated grime, dirt, and particles before they etch glass panes and scratch siding. You don’t have to do it all at once. Spraying the siding with water first will give you a better idea if you need a soft bristle brush and a pail of soapy water. Spruce up the windows, doors, trim, and steps on another day.

Thoroughly clean the gutter system inside and out. Yes, it’s more important to get rid of the debris inside the gutter channel. But removing surface dirt from the gutter face helps preserve the finish.

Don’t forget to clean hardscape elements such as a pathway, driveway, wood deck or paved patio, especially if they are visible from the street.

Lawn TLC

Leave the leaves for the trees. It’s not just a matter of aesthetics. Once they have fallen and are left on the ground, they can do your lawn more harm than good. A lawn must be allowed to breathe. Layers of leaves block sunlight, oxygen, and water required for a healthy lawn. Trapped moisture in the soil can lead to fungi growth. Rake the lawn, seed bald patches and add fertilizer.

Those Finishing Touches

Flank planters on either side of the door and on the stairs leading up to the house.

Add edging – plants, stone, brickwork – to sidewalks and driveways. Use fall plants and/or flowering shrubs.

Create an autumn-themed display by repurposing a little red wagon, old wheelbarrow, or vintage wash tub.

Clean the Roof Before the Gutters

Fall is here and it’s time to start on that home maintenance checklist to get our homes ready for winter. Clearing off the roof first before the cleaning out the gutters should help reduce the amount of debris entering the gutter system.

DIY or Roofing Contractor

Before tackling a DIY roof cleaning, consider hiring a roofing pro. A roof contractor does much more than remove twigs and dirt. Most roof cleaning services include a thorough inspection, will reattach or replace loose and damaged flashings, do repairs, and replace damaged/missing roof tiles. A roofing contractor will also be able to tell if you have moss or algae growing on your roof – in the early stages, it can be invisible to the eye. Hire a professional when:

  • the house is two or more storeys
  • the roof configuration includes multiple levels
  • the roof is too steep
  • you don’t have the right tools, equipment and cleaning solutions on hand

Cleaning the Roof

When cleaning the roof, choose methods and cleaning solutions that won’t harm roofing shingles. Above all, be safe: use proper safety protocols; if possible, have someone helping you.

Begin by removing any loose debris such as leaves, branches and pine cones. Most types of debris can be lightly swept away with a broom or rake. Pay attention to roof valleys and roof protrusions (dormer window, skylight, etc.) where debris can build up.

If the roof is stained or streaked, it should be cleaned with a bleach solution or chemical cleaning product to kill the organisms responsible for the algae/mildew/moss growth.

Be patient – the solution, whether it’s homemade or store-bought, will have to sit for a while and might not seem to be working. If the algae doesn’t wash away in the next two or three rainfalls or the moss isn’t loose enough to be removed by hand or with a leaf blower, you might need another application.

Don’ts and Dos of Roof Cleaning

Don’t step on the roof before ensuring it’s sound and dry.
Do take safety precautions including using the ladder properly, wearing non-slip soled shoes, and choosing the right weather conditions to work in (e.g. not too windy).
Don’t use a pressure washer.
Do use a spray nozzle attached to a garden hose.
Don’t ignore moss growth – once it takes hold, it can weigh a roof down. It can’t just be cleaned; it must be removed.
Do take preventative measures once the moss has been removed. Trim back trees around the house to allow as much sunlight on the roof as possible.

Before Investing in Gutter Cleaning Gadgets

The perception of a gutter cleaning gadget, especially a robotic, electronic, or remote-controlled device, is it simplifies the task. Before investing in gutter cleaning tools, here are some tips to help you decide if one of them is right for you.

Attachments that Use Water

Gutter cleaning gadgets that use water are generally designed to be attached to a garden hose (nozzle at the end of an extension pole; extender fastened to garden hose). While they can handle small sized clumps of debris, they seem ineffective in breaking up larger clumps and moving it along the gutter channel. Another common objection regarding attachments that use water is there isn’t enough water pressure created to get rid of sludgy debris without scrubbing.

Attachments that Use Air

Gutter cleaning tools using air work off a leaf blower or a shop vacuum. While some types are intended to be used from the ground, they can become unmanageable or difficult to maneuver. These kinds of attachments that use air work better if the person operating it is on a ladder. When blasting leaves, twigs and other bits of debris, you have to be careful that the gunk doesn’t land on the roof or back into the gutters.

Gutter Robots

Two major criticisms concerning gutter robots are they tend to spit the debris up on the roof and get stuck in the gutter channel or flip over. The general consensus appears to be that cleaning a gutter system with a remote-controlled gadget takes longer than when the gutters are cleaned manually.

Other Things to Consider

Some products work better than others. Before investing in a gutter clean gadget consider the following:

  • most remote controlled devices work better on even surfaces
  • attachments that use water or air tend to handle dry and/or smaller clumps more easily
  • attachments using extension poles operated from the ground perform more efficiently on one-storey structures
  • even with a gutter cleaning attachment designed to hold a camera or a mirror, you can’t really see what you’re doing

New Hardware for Your Home’s Exterior

Update home exterior hardware

Photo credit: nola.agent/Flickr Creative Commons

As we bravely march toward upcoming fall and winter holidays, now is the time to pay attention to your home’s exterior. Focusing on one element can make the project manageable, both mentally and budget-wise. This first week of autumn, concentrate on hardware – you’ll be surprised how different the front of the house will look by simply swapping out round doorknobs for lever door handles or adding a new letter box by the front door.

House Numbers

If they’re perfectly serviceable and look okay, it might never have occurred to you they need to be replaced. But an outdated house number can have a negative effect on the appearance of your property. Change the old house number for a new one when it is:

  • not easily seen – the numbers have become obscured by grown trees
  • awkwardly placed – below eye level or out of the area of illumination of a light fixture
  • not your colour choice
  • worn, faded or broken
  • too small – a person should be able to easily read the numbers from a distance

Postal Carrier Notice Me!

A wall-mounted mailbox or a letter slot that is outdated or not working properly detracts from your home’s exterior. Replacing the old mailbox with one in a new colour or made of gleaming brass can give new life to your entrance way.

Entrance Door Hardware

The Vancouver bylaw banning doorknobs has been in effect for new construction a while now. Lever-style handles are easier to open for people who experience difficulty turning a doorknob. Replacing round doorknobs with lever door handles allows you to add an element of visual interest that reflects your personal style. The same can be said for a door knocker; decorative hardware helps define the house’s style and character.

New hardware isn’t just about curb appeal or increasing the market value of your property. In the process of updating old for new, you can change the style or mood of your home’s exterior. If you plan on updating two or more elements such the house numbers, mailbox and front door handle, select the same type of material to harmonize the exterior of your home.