Fall Gutter Maintenance

Winter can be really rough on gutters so a top priority on your fall home maintenance list should be a thorough gutter cleaning. Fallen leaves, bits of twigs, and little surprises the wind brings can collect in the gutters, forming clogs and creating mischief. Fall gutter maintenance includes clearing off the roof, cleaning the gutters, and doing minor repairs.

Clear off the Roof

Taking care of any debris on the roof ensures that none of it will end up in the gutters after a gutter cleaning. First check the roof to see just how much debris has accumulated. From the ground or from a ladder, conduct a visual inspection using binoculars – don’t walk on the roof unless you have to. Concentrate on areas where leaves and twigs can become snagged such around flashings, near dormer windows and chimneys, and in roof valleys.

If you see dirt, leaves, and other types of debris on the roof, resist the temptation to spray it away. While this method might remove some of it, it can also cause the detritus to stick to the shingles. The best way is to use a leaf blower or a soft-bristle broom.

If there is moss/algae/mildew growing on the roof, it doesn’t have to be a part of your fall gutter maintenance plan, but it should be removed at some point, especially if it’s well-advanced. 

Clean the Gutters

Cleaning the gutters is one of the most important fall home maintenance chores. You will want to avoid having to deal with a major gutter system crisis in the middle of winter. A thorough gutter cleaning will also ensure that the gutters aren’t an inviting place for pests to take shelter. Use these steps for cleaning the gutters of your home.

Step #1 – Proper Equipment

Have all the proper equipment and supplies you need in one place – it will make the process more efficient if you don’t have to go hunting for things. It is important to ensure the ladder you will be using works properly, with no loose hardware, wobbly rungs, or damaged parts.

Step #2 – Proper Gear

Dress for the part. A gutter cleaning can be messy (and germy). Wear work pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and shoes with non-skid soles. Don’t forget a good pair of work gloves and safety glasses.

 Step #3 – Use a Tarp

To protect the landscaping or the grass, place a tarp under the area where you will be working. Particularly if you are using a ladder without a shelf, a tarp allows you  to dump the debris somewhere it can be easily collected.

Step #4 – Remove the Debris

Remove debris from the gutter channel with a plastic gutter scoop. Move the ladder along the gutter run – don’t overreach.

Step #5 –Remove Stubborn Stains

For stubborn dirt and stains use a stiff bristle brush and a solution of mild dish detergent mixed with warm water. Do not use a metal bristle brush on aluminum gutters.

Step #6 – Flush the Gutters

When all of the debris has been removed, use a garden hose to flush the gutters. Once the residual dirt and grime has been rinsed away, insert the hose into the gutter outlet to flush out the downspouts – if the water exits freely (not a skimpy trickle), the downspouts are free of blockages.

Look for Leaks

Run water through the gutters. Stand underneath the eaves and look up. Any seams that are worn or damaged can be places where leaks occur. As water is streaming through the gutter system, pay close attention to where two gutter sections are joined together. If water leaks from the seam, it will need to be resealed. Runoff that escapes from the gutters before it exits properly from the downspouts can pool too close to the foundation of your home.

Check the Gutter Slope

Especially if there is standing water or an excessive amount of debris even though you gutter clean two or three times a year, check the gutter slope. While not noticeable to the naked eye, gutters are designed to slope slightly toward the downspouts to allow water to drain properly. While the gutter system was installed correctly, over time something changed and now the gutters don’t drain the way they should. If you have never had to check or calculate gutter slope, consult with a gutter installation technician.

Inspect the Gutter System

Inspect the gutter system for the following:

  • Loose and missing hardware
  • Cracks and holes
  • Pronounced rusting
  • Dents (aluminum gutters)
  • Fading (vinyl gutters)

Tighten or replace missing and damaged fasteners, brackets, and nails. Fill in cracks and holes. Assess the degree of damage that has been done to the gutter system. Make repairs where possible, but if the damage is extensive call a professional gutter company.