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and maintenance of gutters and siding in the Vancouver Lower Mainland.

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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.

Cleaning the Gutters in the Fall is Important

Gutter professionals typically advise cleaning the gutters twice a year. Cleaning a gutter system annually is preferable to not cleaning it at all. But choose the “right” season: there are several compelling reasons why it’s important to clean gutters in the fall.

Not Just Leaves

Temperature, sunlight, and soil moisture dictate when trees shed their leaves. A fall that is warm and mild will see the leaves stay on the trees anywhere from one to three weeks longer, while an autumn that is cold and dry will cause the trees to shed one to three weeks earlier.

Leaves are light, so how much of a threat can they be? But leaves that land in the gutters are generally mixed with twigs, dirt, miscellaneous objects, and bits of organic matter. Add water from rainfall or a periodic storm: the result can be clogged gutters that are heavy, putting additional stress on the fascia.

If pine trees grow close to the house, needles can also enter the gutter system. While they appear green year-round, pine trees shed their needles over a period of weeks rather than all at once like deciduous trees. When you have both types of trees on your property, try to clean the gutters as close to the end of the fall as possible.

In From the Cold

Roof overhangs and gutters filled with leaves and other organic materials look inviting to animals wanting to come in from the cold. Common winter nesters in the Lower Mainland include rodents, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, and birds. They can burrow into the attic space, and damage roof tiles, siding, and downspouts as they travel back and forth from nest to food source.

Prepping for Winter

Cleaning the gutters in the fall is an important step to prepping your home exterior for winter. Keeping the gutter system free of debris ensures that water can freely flow through the gutter channel to the downpipes. Fall gutter cleaning should also include an inspection of seams and joints, nails and fastens holding the gutter system in place, and damaged gutter sections that might not make it until spring.

Advantages of Maintaining Your Gutters

Neglected gutters can cause unwanted problems. Most homeowners know that gutters need to be cleaned at least twice a year (spring and fall). It’s a chore no one really wants to do. So, as we head further into gutter cleaning season, let MHC Gutters remind you of the advantages of maintaining your gutter system throughout the year.

Curb Appeal

The saying “Appearance is everything” is very true when it comes to gutters. Standard gutters hang from the fascia and therefore are noticeable. A gutter system that is streaked, dented, worn, faded or sagging detracts from your home’s curb appeal and can make your home unwelcoming.

Improve Functionality

There is no denying that Vancouver gutters get a lot of rain. When a gutter system is cluttered with debris or has moss growing in the gutter channel, unimpeded water flow to the downspout is not possible. Maintaining your gutters and keeping them free of clogs improves functionality. Water that doesn’t drain properly from the gutter system can lead to a number of problems including:

  • standing water in the gutter channel (adds weight)
  • pooling water around the downspouts (flooding basement)
  • overflowing gutters (landscape erosion)

Increase Life Span

Regardless of the material gutters are made of, keeping them well-maintained increases their life span. When a gutter system is free of debris, it minimizes potential damage to gutter sections and downpipes. A gutter system that leaks, overflows, or doesn’t drain properly invites moisture-related problems such as mold, mildew and foundation damage.

Avoid Expensive Costs

Regularly maintaining gutters through scheduled gutter cleanings and periodic inspections are excellent preventive medicine. Making repairs, stopping leaks, and doing those other little tweaks that keep a gutter system running smoothly prevent problems from escalating and having to spend money to fix them.

Unwanted Guests

Don’t invite unwanted guests. Gutters filled with leaves, twigs, and other types of organic residue are attractive to pests like wasps, bees, birds, and squirrels looking for a home.

Simple Gutter System Maintenance Tips

Cleaning the gutters twice a year is only one element of a total gutter maintenance plan. Homeowners often overlook the other parts of a gutter system, particularly the downspouts. Make your gutters last longer and function better by using these simple gutter system maintenance tips throughout the year.

Gutters

The first part of a gutter system is the gutter, the horizontal section that is the initial point of contact for water coming off of the roof. Hangers are used to attach gutter section to a house. To ensure gutters are in good shape:

  • keep the gutter channel free of debris
  • wash the outside of the gutters to remove dirt, streaks, and organic growth such as algae or moss
  • check that the hangers are not worn or loose – for older gutter systems using spikes or nails, replace them if they’re loose or rusted
  • check the seams and joints for leaks
  • remove nests and other signs of pest/insect activity
  • trim back trees close to the house to reduce the amount of debris entering the gutter system and to prevent potential damage to aluminum gutters

Downpipes

The second major part of the gutter system is the downspout. If you have more than one, don’t forget to check all of them. Inspect the downspouts once every two months and look for:

  • dents – can restrict water flow
  • scratches – can promote corrosion
  • loose brackets – shifting causes misalignment
  • clogs – they typically form in one of three places; gutter outlet, middle, and elbow

Removing a clog from a downspout is sometimes more problematic than cleaning the gutters. If flushing water through the downpipe doesn’t dislodge the blockage, try using a plumber’s auger.

Drainage

Drainage is the third integral part of any gutter system. Once water enters the gutters and exits through the downpipes, it must be routed safely away from the house. Check for the following:

  • pooled water underneath the downspout – it might be a landscaping issue or a blockage inside the pipe
  • rust, flaking, and peeling paint are possible signs of leaks or other kinds of water damage
  • distance – water should be deposited a minimum of 7 feet from the foundation
  • if using a downspout extender or splash block, make sure it is positioned correctly and is in good condition

How Neglected Gutters Harm Your Home

While it’s summer, the last thing you probably want to do is think about preparing your home’s exterior for fall, including cleaning the gutters. If they are still attached to your house, a little bit of dirt is obviously not bothering them. The reality is by the time they have fallen off the damage is most likely serious, affecting not just the gutters but other parts of your home as well.

Fascia and Soffit

The main reason for standing water inside a gutter is debris build-up. When inclement weather adds rain to a gutter system already filled with water, gutters can overflow. If water spills over the inner edge (side of the gutter closest to the house) and seeps into the fascia boards, damp fascia can slowly become rotting fascia. Overflowing gutters may also seep into soffit with a similar result.

Neglected gutters are heavy. Water combined with debris weighs down the gutters until they pull away from the fascia boards and/or put additional stress on soffit panels.

Algae, Moss, Mold, Mildew

Gutters not properly maintained are vulnerable to the formation of algae, moss, mold or mildew. When it can be seen on the gutter face, soffit or fascia, plant growth such as moss can be removed. When gutters overflow and rainwater seeps in behind the gutters or into soffit panels and fascia boards, algae, moss, mold or mildew are more difficult to deal with.

Mold, mildew, and moss can pose mild to serious health issues. Moss is very absorbent; once it takes hold inside the gutter channel, it retains water, adding extra weight to the gutter section. Most types of algae are not harmful to a person’s health like moss, mold, and mildew are. However, algae can stain and even ruin the protective finish of your gutters.

Effects of Standing Water

Neglected gutters filled with twigs, leaves, and dirt encourage standing water. The same goes for clogged downspouts; debris trapped inside downpipes stops rainwater from exiting the gutter system.

Pooled water beneath a downspout can cause flooding in a basement. Standing water inside the gutters creates an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes and other kinds of nagging insects. It can also cause rusting, pitting and leaks in aluminum gutters.

Advice on Buying Gutter Guards

When gutter guards are selected to work with your home’s microclimate and climatic region, they do an excellent job of keeping debris from entering the gutter system. However, in order to get the most out of gutter covers that fully protect your home’s exterior, here are some things to consider.

Roof Warranty

While all types of gutter guards are designed to keep out leaves, twigs and other bits of debris, the installation process depends on what kind you’ve purchased. Some gutter covers are installed by placing the edge of the screen or protector under the row of shingles at the roofline. Before investing in this kind of gutter guard system check to see that it doesn’t void your current roof warranty.

Microclimate

You are most likely purchasing a leaf protection system because you have a lot of trees close to the house. Screens or other types of gutter covers with holes should match the kinds of trees growing on your property. For example, choose gutter guards with small holes if there are pine trees near the gutters; gutter covers with diamond-shaped holes are more effective in keeping out small to medium sized leaves, blossoms, pods, etc.

Maintenance

Yes, gutter guards do reduce the amount of debris that can clog up the gutters. But unfortunately, leaf protectors, whatever kind they might be, do not eliminate the need for cleaning the gutters at least once a year.

There are two categories of leaf protects – gutter covers and gutter screens. Gutter covers, as the name suggests, covers the top of the gutter. Gutter screens are typically attached to the sides or are placed inside the gutter channel. No matter what kind you select, the leaf protection system will have to be removed and then put back once you’ve finished cleaning the gutters.

If you are in the habit of cleaning the gutters yourself and your home is two or more storeys, you should consider hiring a professional gutter cleaning service after purchasing a gutter guard system. Since the gutter cleaning process will take longer, it increases the risk of falling off the ladder.

Gutters and Ladder Safety

The nice weather is calling your name, enticing you into the backyard to sit on the deck and relax. But summertime is also when homeowners become motivated to get home maintenance stuff done. If checking the siding or cleaning the gutters is on your to-do list, make sure if it involves a ladder, you’re using it safely.

Reasons People Fall off a Ladder

When cleaning out the gutters, cleaning off the roof or inspecting the roofing system, working on a ladder can be dangerous. Reasons people fall off ladders include:

  • wearing the wrong type of shoes
  • improper ladder placement
  • overreaching
  • standing on your toes
  • doesn’t heed the “three points of contact” rule

Choosing the Right Ladder

If it’s not the right type for the task at hand, you’re putting yourself in danger. Keep these tips in mind when buying a new ladder:

  • a step-ladder is fine for a one storey house but if your home is two or more floors, invest in an extension ladder to help you safely reach the gutters
  • if your house is two or more storeys, a straight ladder (leans but doesn’t extend) should be tall enough to reach
  • select metal over wood to avoid warping
  • purchase a ladder with a stabilizer to prevent denting aluminum gutters or buy the ladder standoff/stabilizer separately

Using the Ladder Safely

Most falls off a ladder are preventable. When doing gutter maintenance this summer or cleaning the gutters in the fall, use these tips suggested by professionals.

Place the ladder on even and stable ground. For example, avoid putting a ladder on shifting surfaces such as wet mud or gravel.

Shoes on ladders should have rubber soles or be made of some other non-slip material.

An extension or straight ladder should not be placed too far from the wall – to determine the maximum number of feet the ladder should be away from the house, divide the height of the ladder by four.

If you have to remove a clog just slightly out of reach, move the ladder instead of reaching too far.

Climbing the ladder, place the middle of the foot on the rung. When standing on the rungs, feet should be flat and slightly apart for added balance.

Always practice the “three points of contact” rule: two feet and one hand when cleaning the gutters or one foot and two hands when climbing the ladder.

Partner up with someone when using the ladder – one on it, one holding or standing nearby; never both on the ladder at the same time.

Other Reasons to Call a Gutter Contractor

You’re in the habit of waiting until the gutters “really” need cleaning. Or you’ve noticed a couple of sagging gutter sections at the front of the house, but don’t think it’s worth calling a professional just yet. Waiting until a gutter emergency occurs can be expensive and might do real damage to your home’s exterior. Here are some sound reasons to call a gutter contractor before your gutters reach crisis mode.

Longevity

Repairing minor damage such as rust spots, loose brackets or leaking seams stops the problem from becoming worse. Leaking seams eventually lead to rusting, an indication of metal deterioration. The weight of water running through a system with loose nails or brackets puts extra stress on both the gutters and fascia.

Regular cleaning reduces the chance of clogs forming in the gutter channel, around the gutter outlet or in the downspouts. Whether it’s doing repairs right away or hiring a gutter cleaning service, regular maintenance will help extend the life of the gutters.

New Home

Even when the roofing system received a passing grade as part of the home inspection prior to the purchase of your new home, call a gutter contractor after living in the house for at least 18 months. Ask them to check:

  • the gutter slope
  • if more downpipes are needed
  • that the downspouts of a multi-level roof are draining directly into the gutters below and not onto the roof itself
  • if a drip edge needs to be added (applicable to homes 15 years and older)

Relocating Downspouts

Does the downspout snake inelegantly around your backyard deck? Do all the downpipes on the house manage to cross paved areas including the driveway? Ensuring that downspouts are being properly diverted will protect your home from potential foundation damage. Get advice and help from a gutter installation company on where the downspouts should be relocated or if downspout extenders or splash blocks are required.

Improve Downspout Efficiency

Call a gutter contractor to improve downspout efficiency when downpipes are:

  • situated too close to the house
  • draining into the neighbour’s yard
  • can’t seem to handle current water volume
  • keep clogging for no obvious reason

How to Clean Gutters with Gutter Guards

Homeowners purchase a gutter guard or leaf protection system to keep debris out, cutting down on time spent on maintenance. Unfortunately, the prevailing myth is that gutters with gutter guards never have to be cleaned again. But no matter how high the quality or what kind of gutter guard was installed, the gutters still need to be cleared out regularly.

Why do Gutters with Gutter Guards Need Cleaning?

When gutter guards or any other type of leaf protection do their job, leaves, twigs, pine cones, blossoms, etc. hang around if not blown away. Especially if the gutter guard system is covered by material with holes (mesh screens, round slots, elongated openings), as the debris disintegrates, it breaks down into small enough particles that enter the gutters. Depending on the width of the slots or holes, seed pods, needles, and buds can bypass the gutters guards altogether. Over time, these little bits of material buildup and create clogs.

Set the Stage

Lay down a tarp where you’ll be working to catch falling debris.

Place the ladder on a level surface. If you can’t lean the ladder against the wall, use a ladder stabilizer to avoid damaging the gutters. An extension ladder should be tall enough to extend three rungs above the roof.

Get the garden hose ready – it’s going up the ladder with you.

Suit Up

Where protective gear such as work gloves, safety glasses and work boots or shoes with non-slip soles. For added protection, it’s advisable to avoid short sleeves and shorts.

Cleaning Gutters with Gutter Guards

Once safely on the ladder, spray the top and sides of the gutter section to remove debris and grime. Then aim the spray nozzle into the gutter channel to flush out any silt and bits of material.

Look under the cover or through the screen of the gutter guard and into the gutter channel. If the initial flushing with water did not get rid of the debris, the leaf protector will have to be removed. Depending on the type of gutter guard, it will either have to be unscrewed piece by piece or in sections.

Use a non-abrasive cleaning solution or warm soapy water with a soft cloth or soft bristle brush to remove any residual dirt both inside and outside of the gutters.

Do one section at a time. Don’t overreach; move the ladder instead. Repeat the above steps as needed.

If the gutter guards have to be removed in order to access the gutter channel and then put back, be prepared for the gutter cleaning process to take longer.

Should You Hire Someone to Clean the Gutters?

When gutters aren’t cleaned regularly, it can lead to major problems such as a flooded basement, damaged siding, or water-stained interior walls. While the main reason for cleaning the gutters yourself is to save money, there are several other very good reasons for hiring someone to do it for you.

Safety Concerns

One of the top three preventable non-work-related accidents is falling off a ladder while performing home maintenance chores. If you’re not clear on all aspects of ladder safety or you’re just not fond of heights, avoid the risk of personal injury by hiring a gutter cleaning company.

Not Cleaned in a Long Time

If the gutters haven’t been cleaned in a long time or inspected for potential repairs, the whole process will take longer. Also, it will most likely be a little less straightforward. Hiring a gutter professional, in this case, will not only ensure that the gutters and downspouts get thoroughly cleaned, but that problem areas are identified and then addressed.

Never had to Clean the Gutters

You’ve never had to clean the gutters before. Whether it’s because you’ve lived in a condo or could always get someone to volunteer, gutter cleaning has never been a part of your home maintenance routine. Although it might seem like something you can figure out, instinctively reaching for the power washer, for example, might actually harm aluminum gutters. A gutter cleaning service will know the best way to clean your home’s gutter system.

Your House

Consider hiring a gutter cleaning company if your house:

  • is two or more storeys
  • is large
  • has a complex roofing system (i.e. multiple levels)
  • has a built-in gutter system

Right Equipment

Sure, the ladder is a couple of rungs too short, but it’ll be okay if you can still reach? A professional gutter company will have the right equipment, including extension ladders, various gutter cleaning tools, and scaffolding if it’s needed.

Right Know-How

A gutter installation company will provide quick and efficient cleaning. It’s probably going to take a DIY-er longer to complete a gutter cleaning project than a professional, on average 2 to 3.5 hours depending on the size of the house and roof configuration. A good gutter cleaning company offers a number of services including, special gutter-face treatments (i.e. moss/algae removal), replacing worn brackets, property clean-up, and any necessary follow-up calls or visits.