If you live in the desert and don’t have any deciduous trees growing on your property, you can safely commit to cleaning the gutters once a year. Let’s be honest about gutter cleaning; it’s probably everyone’s least favourite home maintenance chore, However, if you live in the Lower Mainland, any savvy homeowner knows, a well-maintained roof and gutter system are the best defense against the elements. “When should I clean my gutters?” is an excellent question. Depending on where you live and the size of your house, regularly cleaning the gutters twice a year will protect your home from water damage; more often in certain circumstances.
Gutter Cleaning in the Spring
Whether you DIY your own gutters or plan to schedule a gutter cleaning service, clean the gutters between the last week in April and the second or third week of May. Start cleaning the gutters by inspecting the roof with a good pair of binoculars. Look for leftover fall leaves that are decomposing on your roofing tiles, twigs, dirt, pine cones, and pine needles. Deal with if first. If you wait for a windy day, the debris will either by blown off the roof or into the gutters.
By mid-May, fruit trees and other deciduous trees will have shed their blossoms, seed pods, and pollen. Pollen, specifically from insect-pollinated trees, and tree sap can coat the inside and outside of a gutter system. The combination of sticky sap, blossoms, dust, and pollen creates a greater risk of clogs forming. Since some kinds of tree saps are acidic, there is also the possibility of damage to the gutter system’s protective finish if the sticky film is not removed.
Gutter Cleaning in the Fall
Cleaning the gutters in the fall is crucial, particularly if you are cleaning them just twice a year. Thoroughly cleaning the gutters inside and out will prepare your gutter system to function efficiently through the winter months.
Don’t forget the downspouts – ensure all of them are free of blockages and they are firmly attached to the house. All hardware throughout the gutter system should be checked – nothing loose, nothing missing. If you’ve noticed anything that is broken, missing, or dented after cleaning aluminum gutters, fix, repair, or replace it as soon as possible before the colder weather sets in.
Reasons for gutter cleaning in the fall include:
- Discourages rodents, squirrels, chipmunks, and birds from building nests
- Prevents blockages from forming, resulting in overflowing gutters (water damage)
- Prevents soil erosion and damage to landscaping (overflowing gutters)
- Avoids gutter system failure during winter months when having to deal with an emergency is more serious
- Avoids costly repairs
Cleaning the Gutters after a Storm
After an active weather system, hail, a heavy rainfall, or blustery winds gutters and downspouts can take a beating. Whenever a storm hits, it’s good home maintenance to see how the gutter system has survived. Check to see if:
- Any gutter sections are dented or missing
- Downspouts are still attached to exterior walls
- Downspouts haven’t been detached fro m the gutter outlet
- Gutter guards, if you have installed them, haven’t been damaged or blown away
- There is debris inside the gutter troughs
The good news is if you’ve been cleaning the gutters regularly, removing any of the debris from the gutter troughs won’t be as time consuming. Take extra care when gutter cleaning after a storm. Use a ladder to access the gutters – avoid standing on the roof. Ensure that the ladder is positioned correctly on even, dry ground.
Exceptions to the Twice-a-Year Rule
While cleaning the gutters once in the spring and then again in the fall provides adequate protection for many homes, there are factors that make it necessary to gutter clean more often in the year. Exceptions to the twice-a-year rule are:
Annual rainfall: If you live in a region with a high annual rainfall or over 100 cm per year, plan on cleaning the gutters three times year. FYI – Vancouver’s estimated annual rainfall is 146 cm per year.
House size: The larger the house, the larger the roof, inviting more grime, dirt, twigs, leaves, and other bits of debris into the gutter system. To keep the gutters functioning optimally throughout the year, clean the gutters three times.
Where you live: Consider microclimatic conditions: these are conditions created by factors unique to your property. If you live in an agricultural community, near a busy highway, next to an industrial area, or in a neighbourhood with a lot of trees, it might be necessary to clean the gutters four times a year, particularly if you have several trees growing close to your house.