The rain gutters on your home or business are probably something you don’t give much thought to. Many people don’t, after all. And that is a mistake. The gutters are very important to the overall protection and safety of your home. Moisture is the root cause of many of a home’s most destructive and persistent problems, such as mold, pests, and decay. Gutters are designed to redirect rainwater away from the roof and your home. It is, however, very easy for leaves, branches, and other debris to build up in your gutters, so you need to clean them out regularly. If not, the flow of water can become obstructed, and your gutters will not work effectively. Gutters that do not work properly, which can lead to all sorts of problems.
1. Water Damage
Gutters are supposed to direct water away from your roof and the structure of your home. If they’re clogged or broken, water can fall over the sides of the roof and build up around the foundation of your home and seep into your basement or crawlspace and create problems there, which overtime can weaken the structural soundness of the house and cause mold or mildew. Clogged gutters can even cause erosion or leaks. Water spilling from the gutters can seep into the soffit, fascia, or wooden framing and cause rot. It can also back up along the roof and cause damage to the shingles, which can lead to leaks that can seep into the interior of your home. Dirty water spilling down the sides of the building can also leave streaks of dirty water marks in its wake.
2. Sagging Gutters
Loosened or sagging gutters is another problem from debris build-up. Water can accumulate in clogged gutters and make them extremely heavy, especially when it freezes during the winter months. The weight of the clogged gutters combined with rotting wood puts a lot of pressure on the fasteners. Over time the gutters will begin to sag or even collapse and fall off the home, creating some unsightly damage to the exterior of your house. If you live in an area that typically freezes during the winter, clogged gutters can also cause ice dams. This is when water falls over the side of the clogged gutter and freezes, forcing water into the home. The ice dams can also become so heavy that they rip the gutters right off your home, resulting in some costly repairs.
3. Ground Erosion
The ground directly around the house is not the only area that can be affected by erosion. Excess water flowing from clogged gutters can also erode away dirt from directly beneath driveways, patios, and walkways. As the dirt is wash away, the structure loses support and can settle, crack, or even collapse. If you’ve already encountered this problem, be sure to fix any gutter or downspout problems before repairing or replacing the driveway, patio, or walkway.
Leaving excess water sitting in your clogged gutters puts you at risk of attracting a variety of pests, including termites and mosquitoes. They thrive in water, and a neglected, clogged gutter is a prime breeding ground and home for them. Do you recall hearing reminders going out during mosquito season to dump any stagnant water, to prevent mosquitoes from having places to lay their eggs? How many of you have thought about checking your gutters during that time? Termites need water to thrive, so gutters that deposit excess water lures them in and can encourage a termite infestation. But it’s not only bugs like these that you have to worry about. Excess moisture in your attic from clogged gutters can be an open invitation to mice, squirrels, and birds to build nests there, as well. And it’s not fun trying to get rid of an animal in your attic.
When water that doesn’t have time to evaporate, it can lead to the growth of mold and mildew. When mold starts to accumulate, it can spread. When that happens, mold can become difficult to get rid of. Mold and mildew are not only eyesores, but can be damaging and unhealthy, as well. Maintaining your gutters can reduce the chance of mold getting into your house.
What can you do to maintain your gutters?
It is recommended to clean your gutters at least twice a year, in the spring and fall. It doesn’t hurt to check them more frequently, however. If you live in the desert or in an area without any plants or foliage near your home, you may only need to check them once a year, but defer to a professional’s opinion. Likewise, if you live in a woodsy area surrounded by a lot of trees, you may need to check them more frequently than twice a year. Again, check with a professional about a plan to make sure you clean them often enough.
If you want to clean your gutters yourself, you will want to use the proper equipment. This includes:
*Gloves, to protect your hands from possibly sharp objects in the gutters
*Dust mask, to keep from breathing in dust from dried, clogged gutters
*Safety goggles, to protect against any possible debris that might fly back
*Ladder, to access the gutters
*Garden trowel, to scoop out debris
*Hose, to wash out remaining dirt
If you are uncomfortable with ladders or heights, if the weather is snowy or icy, or if you notice any damage to your gutters, then call a roofing professional. It is probably best, though, to have a professional clean your gutters for you in any case, as they can do it properly, spot any potential problems, and are concerned about your safety, since it can be dangerous to try to clean or repair gutters yourself.