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Lack of gutter maintenance creating mold issues discovered by Custom Exteriors during a siding replacement

The essential guide to gutter cleaning:
Protecting your home every season

If I told you that, in our experience, the system that causes the most and costliest damage when left unmaintained isn’t your roof but your gutters, would you be surprised? Well, don’t be. Decades of experience in exterior remodeling has taught us one thing. The health of your home hangs in the balance of your exterior maintenance, specifically gutter cleaning and maintenance. We have seen firsthand the silent havoc your gutters can cause with a lack of maintenance. Our experience has shown us the critical role gutters play in maintaining the integrity of your house! This is why we want to share our knowledge and experience with you, emphasizing the importance of keeping those gutters clean and properly sloped for the protection of your home. 

The need for gutter maintenance is especially high in two seasons: spring and fall. Why, you might ask, do these two seasons need special attention? The answer lies in the unique challenges they present. In many places throughout the US, and certainly here in Colorado, spring often comes with heavy rains that can push your home’s ability to manage the excess water effectively to the limit. Without a clear pathway, that water can find its way inside your home, leading to mold, water damage, and many other problems, including structural issues. Fall, on the other hand, fills your gutters with leaves, twigs, and debris, clogging up the pathway and setting the stage for ice dams and further water damage once winter arrives. 

A necessity, not an option

Through our years of service, we’ve seen the costly and often preventable damage that comes from neglected gutter maintenance. From mold taking hold in the damp recesses of a home to water undermining the foundation of the property, the consequences are real and can be severe. That’s why we stress the importance of regular gutter cleaning not as just a recommendation but as an important part of your home maintenance routines. In this guide we will cover: 

So, please let us guide you through the why, the when, and the how of gutter cleaning. Custom Exteriors aims to provide you with the knowledge and skill to keep your home looking beautiful while protecting it at the same time. So, grab your ladder (metaphorically speaking), and let’s talk about your gutters, leaves, and debris and the simple measures that can save you a world of hassle and expense. 

Why gutters matter more than you think

Infographic designed by Custom Exteriors explaining the path of rainwater on your roof and how gutters serve to direct it

Imagine your home during a heavy rainstorm. Where does all that water go? Your gutters are the primary path to take all the rainwater gathered across your entire roof and guide it safely away from your home. But if you aren’t quite sure what gutters do or why they’re so important, you’re not alone. 

Gutters are the long channels that run along some edges of your roof. Their job is simple but incredibly important: they catch rainwater as it runs off your roof and direct it away from your home. This might not sound like a big deal at first, but without gutters, your home is at real risk for water damage. 

Here’s why gutters are important: 

1. Protection from water damage:

Without gutters, rainwater would just pour right off your roof, down the walls, and accumulate around the foundation of your house. Over time, when the ground becomes saturated, water can fill window wells and seep into the home. This can lead to basement flooding, causing damage that can be expensive to fix. 

2. Keeping the foundation strong:

Your foundation supports your entire home and every system within it. If water pools around the foundation because there are no gutters or they are clogged, it can weaken the structure. Over time, this constant moisture can lead to cracks or even more serious damage. 

3. Preventing mold and mildew:

Mold thrives in damp places. If water constantly drips down your home’s sides because the gutters aren’t doing their job, it creates the perfect home for mold and mildew. This isn’t just a problem for your home’s structure; it can also affect your family’s health. 

4. Saving your landscaping:

Do you take pride in your yard and landscaping? Gutters help protect your landscaping from being washed away or damaged by heavy rains. As the water is directed off the roof and through the gutters, it reaches your downspouts and is drained away from your home and its landscape. 

5. Avoiding pest problems:

In addition to all of the physical damage standing water causes to your home, it can also attract pests. By keeping your gutters clean, you’re not giving mosquitoes a perfect place to breed right outside your front door

These are the reasons it is so important to understand the role gutters play in keeping your home protected from water damage. They might not get all the attention that other parts of your house do, but they’re working hard behind the scenes to prevent potential problems. However, they need care in order to function properly, which is why cleaning them out regularly is so important. Stick with us, and we’ll show you how to take care of your gutters, ensuring they continue to protect your home season after season. 

According to Architectural Digest, The average cost to have your gutters cleaned is $207.  The average cost for mold mitigation is $2230. Exterior maintenance is an investment in both your home and your peace of mind.

The consequences of ignoring gutter maintenance

Neglecting gutter cleaning can create issues that may not be noticeable until they are serious and expensive. Examples of damage we have encountered due to lack of routine maintenance includes: 

We have seen firsthand damage to roof decks, siding, and drywall due to the lack of gutter maintenance. Because of this, ignoring gutter cleaning is not a risk we are willing to take. The consequences of inadequate gutter maintenance come with the hassle of scheduling and living through repairs and significant costs. Regular gutter maintenance is a simple and effective way to protect your home from these potentially devastating problems and have the peace of mind that comes with that knowledge. 

The importance of gutter cleaning in the fall and spring

Unfortunately, cleaning your gutters isn’t just a once-a-year kind of job. Just like the other exterior components like your roof and siding, you need to perform regular maintenance. To really protect your home, it’s crucial to focus on gutter maintenance, especially in two key seasons: fall and spring. Drawing from our team’s decades of experience, let me tell you why these times are so important. 

Custom photo created by Custom Exteriors to illustrate the reason it is important to clean your gutters in both the spring and the fall

Spring Cleaning:

Rainy season Prep:

We’ve all heard the term “spring showers,” and those showers need somewhere to go. In certain parts of the country, these spring showers regularly turn into spring downpours. After winter, your gutters might be filled with leftover leaves, debris from ice and storms, or even nests that animals make during the colder months. If your gutters are clogged with debris, all that rainwater has nowhere to go except back into your home. Cleaning out your gutters ensures spring rains have a clear path away from your home, keeping your basement dry and your foundation safe. 

Damage inspection:

Spring is also a great time to check for any damage that winter might have caused to your gutters. Freezing and thawing, heavy snow, and ice can all lead to cracks in your gutter system. We have also seen gutter systems collapse or pull away from the house under the sheer weight of the ice built up in them over the winter. So, catching and fixing these issues before your first torrential downpour can save you a lot of trouble and money down the road. It’s also a great time to check over your roof and do a brief roof inspection for any signs your roof might need maintenance before the rain starts falling. 

Fall Cleaning:

Leaves and Debris:

In Colorado, in the fall, trees shed their leaves like crazy. Our yards are shades of orange and brown, and everyone in the neighborhood dedicates a few days each fall to cleaning up their yards from the mess made by shedding trees. But guess where else those leaves landed? In your gutters! These falling leaves, twigs, and other debris can quickly fill up your gutters, blocking water from flowing through. If water can’t flow, it can cause all the problems we’ve discussed, like leaks and foundation damage. 

Preparing for winter:

By cleaning your gutters in the fall, you’re preparing your home to face the winter storms and snow we see in the winter in Colorado. Clogged gutters can lead to ice dams which cause water to back up and damage your roof, ceilings, and walls. Clear gutters mean a smoother path for snow and ice to melt and drain away, preventing this damage. 

Based on our team’s experience, regular gutter maintenance in these two seasons can significantly reduce the risk of water damage and expensive repairs. So, grab that ladder and those gloves. If your physical limitations prevent safe ladder use, call in the professionals and give your home the care it deserves. 

Your step-by-step guide to gutter cleaning

Cleaning your gutters might seem like a big task, but it’s actually something most homeowners can do on their own with a little bit of guidance. Before anything else, safety is key. Consider your physical limitations before beginning. If, for any reason, you can not safely climb a ladder or have questions about your ability to do so with a bucket full of tools, call in a professional. Your safety should be your first concern; gutter cleaning is a reasonably affordable service. 

If you are comfortable with heights and safe ladder use, ensure you have a sturdy ladder that can reach your gutters comfortably. Always place it on solid, level ground. Having someone with you to hold the ladder steady while you work is a good idea. Never lean over the ladder’s sides, and don’t forget to wear gloves to protect your hands from sharp objects and a pair of goggles to keep your eyes safe. 

Infographic created by Custom Exteriors that shows each step required to clean your gutters

Step 1: Gather your tools

You’ll need a few basic tools before you start that will make the job smoother and quicker:

Step 2: Remove Debris

Following appropriate safety guidelines, climb up your ladder and start scooping out the leaves, twigs, and any other debris you find in your gutters. You can use your gloved hands, a garden trowel, or a gutter scoop to do this. Gutter scoops are a tool made to fit in and clear your gutters perfectly. They are available online and at your local home improvement store for under ten dollars. Put your debris in your bucket or the tarp you have laid below your work area. This is a messy job, so be prepared to get dirty. If the leaves are dry and loose and you are comfortable getting onto your roof, a leaf blower is a quick and effective method to clear the leaves. 

Step 3: Flush the gutters

Once you have cleared your gutters of all the visible pieces of debris, it’s time to flush out the gutters with your hose or pressure washer. If you use a pressure washer, start with low pressure and gradually increase your pressure to the lowest setting required to verify the water drains properly and flows freely. High-pressure water can cause extreme damage to your home. Flushing your gutters will help clear out any smaller bits and check that water can flow freely through your gutters and downspouts. If water backs up, there might be a clog in the downspout that you need to clear. 

Step 4: Check for Clogs in Downspouts

If you notice that water isn’t flowing freely, you may have a clog in one of your downspouts. Sometimes, tapping gently on the side of the downspout can loosen the debris. In tougher cases, you might need to use a plumber’s snake or high-pressure water to clear the blockage. 

Step 5: Inspect for Damage

If you are already on your roof, it’s a great time to take a moment to look over your gutters and downspouts for any signs of damage, like holes, cracks, or sections that are pulling away from the house. These issues can lead to bigger problems if they’re not fixed. It’s also a good time to do a brief roof inspection while you have a closer look at the components. 

Step 6: Make repairs as needed:

If you find any damage, it’s important to fix it as soon as possible. Some repairs might be simple enough to do yourself, like sealing small holes or reattaching parts of the gutter that have come loose. For bigger repairs, you might need to call in a professional. 

Pro Tips for easier and safer Gutter cleaning

Tip 1: Use the Right Ladder: Invest in a sturdy, extendable ladder that reaches safely beyond the edge of your gutters. Another wise addition is a standoff stabilizer (also known as a ladder “horn” or “arm”). This keeps the ladder from resting directly on the gutters, which can cause damage such as denting or scratching. 

Tip 2: Wear Protective Gear:  Always wear gloves to protect your hands from sharp debris and edges inside the gutter. Safety glasses or goggles are also a must to protect your eyes from any flying debris. Also, depending on your level of comfort with heights, a harness can guard against injuries from falling. 

Tip 3: Use a Gutter Scoop: A plastic gutter scoop is the best tool for removing gunky debris. It is designed to fit perfectly inside most gutter systems and is nearly a foot long, making short work of clearing gutters. It’s also tough enough to scrape out compacted material but soft enough not to damage the gutter. 

Tip 4: Get a Garden Hose With a Spray Nozzle: After scooping out the debris, use a garden hose with a spray nozzle to flush the gutters. This helps you make sure water is flowing freely and draining away from your home properly. It also presents the opportunity to find any leaks that may need to be fixed before the rain/snow seasons. 

Tip 5: Clean from the Ground When Possible: Consider using gutter cleaning tools that can be operated from the ground, such as gutter cleaning wands or a shop vac with gutter attachments. This reduces the risk of falls. 

Tip 6: Secure Your Debris Bucket: Attach a bucket with a handle to your ladder with a lanyard or a hook for an easy way to keep debris close without having to go up and down the ladder too many times. You can also lay tarps under your work area instead of using a bucket and gather all debris at once.

Tip 7: Check the Weather: Plan your gutter cleaning on a day when the weather has been dry for a few days. Wet and soggy debris is heavier and messier to deal with. 

Tip 8: Work Safely and Methodically: Move the ladder frequently rather than overreaching. Overreaching can destabilize your ladder and lead to falls. Take your time and work in sections to stay safe. 

Tip 9: Inspect and Repair as You Go: Keep an eye out for any signs of damage or wear, such as cracks, holes, or rust. Small issues can often be repaired on the spot with gutter sealant or patches. 


Securing your home with regular maintenance

Regular gutter maintenance, along with routine exterior maintenance, offers long-term benefits that go far beyond curb appeal. Some of the immediate benefits of maintaining your home are: 

Lastly, keeping up with gutter and exterior maintenance gives you peace of mind. Knowing that you’ve taken proactive steps to protect your home means one less thing to worry about. You can rest easy during heavy rains and storms, confident that your home is well-prepared to handle whatever the weather throws its way. 

Just remember, the effort you put into maintaining your home’s gutters and exteriors pays off in the long run. Not only does it save you money by preventing costly damage, but it also maintains, and potentially increases, your home’s value, contributes to a healthier living environment, and provides peace of mind. So, take the time to schedule regular maintenance checks – its and investment in your home’s future and your own well-being. 

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