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

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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.

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.

Tips to Make Gutter Cleaning Easier

Cleaning the gutters is probably no one’s favourite chore. Yeah, that old joke…it’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it. But the longer debris sits in the gutter channel, decomposition reduces materials to a fine silt (or wet muck if mixed with water) that is more difficult to clean out. Use these tips to make gutter cleaning easier.

Plan Ahead

Scheduling: Make an appointment with yourself. Especially if gutter maintenance should be done three times a year and you’re averaging about once if you’re lucky, scheduling a specific time to clean the gutters in late spring, mid-summer and late fall could help keep you on track.

Quick inventory: Take an inventory of supplies you have on hand and what you’ll need to buy. Use environmentally friendly products wherever possible.

Equipment Inspection: Inspect the ladder you will be using for any damage or loose parts. Don’t lean an extension ladder directly against the gutters – use a ladder standoff or ladder stabilizer. Consider adding ladder accessories such as a shelf (step ladder) or utility hooks to reduce the need for trekking up and down the rungs.

What You’ll Need for You

Reduce the risk of injury while cleaning the gutters and the level of difficulty of your gutter cleaning chore by wearing the right clothes, including:

  • thick work gloves (rubber/latex tear easily)
  • long sleeved shirt
  • shoes with grips or non-slip soles
  • hat or cap if you’re not working in the shade
  • safety glasses

What You’ll Need for the Gutters

If you’re not tempted by high-tech solutions for cleaning the gutters, the good news is that most gutter cleaning tools are relatively inexpensive. Things you’ll need are:

  • a gutter scoop
  • heavy duty garbage bags
  • scrub brush (soft bristled)
  • soapy water
  • all purpose cleaning cloth
  • garden hose with a pistol nozzle (easier to hook on the ladder when not in use)

More Ways to Make Gutter Cleaning Easier

Check the long-term weather forecast before scheduling a time to clean the gutters – avoid rainy days or days that will be too windy.

Cover landscaping and the area directly underneath the ladder with a tarp – it will cut down on clean-up time.

You’re up on the ladder anyway; plan to make minor repairs, like tightening the screws of a gutter section pulling away from the fascia or applying fresh sealant to worn seams.

When Should You Clean the Gutters?

While it makes perfect sense to clean the gutters in autumn after the leaves fall, do you really need to clean the gutters in the spring when trees don’t even have leaves yet? Over the course of a winter that includes seasonal and below-seasonal temperatures and a mix of weather systems, wind and rain can deposit a variety of debris in the gutters. This suggested schedule is seasonal, specifically targeting the diverse climatic conditions of the Lower Mainland.

Spring Gutter Cleaning

For spring gutter cleaning to be effective, wait until the last week of April or mid-May when pollen, blossoms, seeds and other organic materials have been shed. Check the roof with binoculars: twigs, loose dirt, and pine cones need to be cleared away first before the gutters are cleaned. Since some types of trees drop debris continuously throughout the year, combined with environmental factors, cleaning the gutters in the spring becomes even more important for keeping gutters healthy.

Summer Gutter Inspection

Plan to inspect the gutters and downpipes anytime in August. Make sure gutters and downspouts are properly attached and haven’t been damaged in any way. The type of debris found in the gutters might be an indication other issues affecting its functionality such as drainage problems, an aging roof or inadequate gutter slope. Examples include:

  • wet leaves, twigs, etc. 48 hours after rainfall
  • roofing granules or pieces of shingles
  • plant growth
  • nests (birds, bee, squirrels, wasps)

Fall Gutter Cleaning

Fall gutter cleaning should be done once the leaves have fallen, around the end of October or the first week of November. Remember to clean the roof first. Take the time to clean the gutters thoroughly both inside and out. The same goes for the downspouts. You’re essentially preparing the gutter system for the winter ahead – after cleaning the gutters, fix, repair or replace anything that needs it.

Winter Gutter Inspection

In the first week of January, inspect the exterior of your home. Examine the siding for water stains caused by overflowing gutters. Also look for pooling water underneath the mouth of the downspout. Check the gutter outlet or outlets, if you have more than one downspout, for debris buildup. Make sure there are no missing roofing tiles, gutter sections or loose/broken downspouts.

Practical Gutter Upgrades

Gutters are a vital part of the roofing system; they help to efficiently drain water off the roof, into the downspouts and away from the house. Without totally replacing the gutters, there are practical gutter upgrades you can make to increase curb appeal, functionality and longevity.

Gutter Outlets

A gutter outlet, or drop outlet, connects the downspout to the gutter system. If outlets are worn, cracked, warped or rusting, their efficiency is compromised. Where downspouts have been improperly installed by inserting the downpipe directly into the gutter section, there might be no outlet at all. Replacing old outlets, especially if they are made of vinyl (shortest lifespan), can improve water expulsion.

There are several different kinds and shapes of gutter outlets. Even if the outlets are made of aluminum or another type of metal, swapping out the existing outlets for a funnel outlet, for example, will allow higher volumes of rainwater to flow through the system.

Larger Downspouts

Standard 5-inch gutter systems are usually paired with 2 x 3-inch downspouts. Where gutters consistently overflow but the system is free of clogs, homeowners might think they need wider, 6-inch gutters. But that might not be the case. By replacing 2 x 3-inch downpipes with 3 x 4-inch downspouts, a gutter system can be upgraded at a fraction of the cost it would take to replace it with 6-inch gutters.

Replace Brackets

Brackets or hangers hold the gutter sections in place, securing them to the fascia and prevent the sections of downpipe from shifting around. There are a variety of brackets for both gutters and downspouts, ranging from unadorned to very detailed. Replacing plain brackets with more decorative ones refreshes the appearance of the gutter system and improves curb appeal.

Depending on the length of the gutter run, brackets or hangers should be spaced two to three feet apart to provide maximum support. Adding more brackets to a gutter system with less than the recommended number is a good way to upgrade a system that might not be in trouble now, but why take a chance?

Leaf Protection

A leaf protection system is designed to keep gutters free of debris, preventing clogs from forming. Do your homework – there are many different products out there; select one that fits your home’s style and is compatible with your existing gutter system. Especially if you have a lot of trees growing near your house, gutter guards can greatly improve the functionality of the gutter system.