Keeping your gutters clean and functioning properly is a crucial part of maintaining your home, but it’s a chore many homeowners put off. When is the right time of year to tackle cleaning out your gutters? What are the signs that indicate your gutters desperately need cleaning? This article will cover when gutters should be cleaned, how often to clean them, signs they need attention, whether to hire a pro, DIY tips, and key takeaways to remember. Learning the best time to clean debris from your gutter system and downspout will help prevent damage, flooding, and moisture issues around your house’s foundation and exterior walls.
Why It’s Important to Clean Gutters
Your gutters serve an important purpose – they direct rainwater away from your home’s foundation and prevent it from pooling around the structure. Leaves, twigs, pine needles, and other debris can easily clog gutters, preventing them from properly diverting water. When gutters are clogged, water can overflow and pool next to your home’s foundation. This can cause moisture damage and erosion, as well as mold and mildew growth.
Clogged gutters can also lead to cracked or buckled walls in your home’s basement or crawlspace due to excessive moisture. Ice dams may also form in winter if gutters are blocked with debris. As snow on the roof melts, it will back up behind clogged areas and refreeze. This can allow water to seep into your attic or walls, causing interior water damage.
For these reasons, it’s critical to keep your gutters and downspouts clear. But how often should you be cleaning them out?
How Often to Clean Gutters
Experts typically recommend cleaning gutters at least twice a year – once in early spring and again in fall. However, if you have a lot of overhanging trees near your home, you may need to clean them more frequently.
Here are some general guidelines on gutter cleaning frequency:
- Homes with minimal trees/debris: Clean gutters in early spring and fall
- Homes with several surrounding trees: Clean gutters 2-3 times per year
- Homes with many trees overhead: Clean gutters 3-4 times per year
- Homes with pine trees nearby: Clean gutters 4+ times per year (pine needles can quickly clog gutters)
The type and number of trees around your home will determine how often cleaning is needed. Oak, maple, ash, birch, willow, and other deciduous trees shed leaves in autumn. Pine, spruce, and fir trees drop pine needles and cones throughout the year. More trees mean more frequent gutter cleaning.
When Are the Best Times of Year to Clean Gutters?
The time of year to get your gutters cleaned will also depend on climate and seasonal conditions in your area. Here are some general guidelines on the optimal times to clean gutters:
Early spring is an ideal time to clean out winter debris before your rainy season begins. In areas with cold winters, gutters will accumulate dead leaves, pine needles, roof grit, and other debris all winter long.
As temperatures warm in March/April, schedule gutter cleaning to remove this buildup before spring rains arrive. This will allow rainwater to flow freely and prevent overflowing gutters.
Aim to clean gutters in early spring before trees have fully leafed out. It will be easier to spot and remove debris without leaves blocking the view.
Summer gutter cleaning may be needed if you have a lot of trees around your home. Pine trees and other evergreens will continue shedding needles in summer, potentially clogging gutters between cleanings.
Check gutters after windstorms as well, since strong winds can blow debris into gutters at any time of year. If you notice overflowing gutters or drainage issues in summer, schedule a cleaning.
Fall is another key time for gutter cleaning. As deciduous trees shed their leaves in autumn, gutters need to be cleared of falling debris before winter arrives.
Aim to clean gutters in mid to late fall after the trees have lost most of their foliage. This will remove leaves before they rot and decay in the gutters over winter.
Pine needles are also likely to accumulate in gutters during fall. Make sure pine needle debris is cleaned out thoroughly.
Most debris will have fallen from trees by late autumn. However, winter gutter cleaning may occasionally be needed after heavy winds or ice storms.
Examine gutters after major winter storms. If chunks of ice have accumulated or if wind has blown branches and other debris into the gutters, schedule a cleaning. This will keep them clear before spring rains arrive.
Signs It’s Time to Clean Your Gutters
Don’t just rely on the time of year when determining gutter cleaning schedules. Look for these signs that indicate it’s time to clean:
- Gutters overflowing when it rains
- Water pooling around the foundation after storms
- Damage or leaks around gutters and downspouts
- Gutters pulling away from the fascia board
- Heavy debris accumulation in gutters
- Pine needles, leaves, shingle grit, etc building up
- Nesting materials from birds or rodents in gutters
- Mushy, wet leaves rotting in gutters
Pay attention while it’s raining and note whether your gutters appear to be working effectively. Schedule cleaning immediately if you notice blockages, overflow, or leaks.
Should I Hire a Professional?
Cleaning gutters can be a dangerous chore, especially if your home has a multi-story roof. The height, combined with leaning precariously over the edge while balancing on a ladder, leads to many accidents each year.
Consider hiring a professional gutter cleaning service especially if:
- You are uncomfortable working with heights
- Your roofline is higher than one story
- Large trees surround your home, making the job more difficult
- Your gutters are in poor repair or difficult to access
- You don’t have the necessary equipment like ladders/manpower
Professional gutter cleaners have the right ladders, tools, and experience to safely and effectively clean your gutters. They can also inspect for damage while cleaning, letting you know of any necessary gutter repairs.
Hiring pros to clean steep roofs, multi-story homes, or houses with many surrounding trees is highly recommended. However, those with single-story homes can usually clean gutters themselves if proper equipment is available.
DIY Gutter Cleaning Tips
If tackling gutter cleaning yourself, keep these safety tips in mind:
- Use a sturdy ladder and place it on level ground, not on soft soil that could shift. Have a partner hold the ladder steady.
- Never lean too far to the side while on a ladder. Move the ladder as needed to reach the entire gutter span without overreaching.
- Use gutter scoops or specially designed tools to scoop and bag debris. Don’t try to clean with your bare hands.
- Wear protective gear like gloves, goggles, and a mask to avoid contact with bacteria and sharp debris.
- Inspect gutters while cleaning. Flag any separated seams, leaks, or damage for repair.
- Make sure downspouts are clear and draining properly. Use a hose to wash debris down the downspouts.
- Clean out drain pipes as well if you notice clogs or blockages.
- Consider gutter guards to help keep leaves and debris out between cleanings.
Cleaning gutters is tedious work, so set aside a full day to tackle the job safely. Work slowly on a dry, mild day without wind for best results.
Key Takeaways on Cleaning Gutters
- Clean gutters at least twice per year in spring and fall, more often if you have overhanging trees nearby
- Look for blockages, overflow, leaks, damage, or debris buildup indicating it’s time for cleaning
- Hire professionals for multi-story or hard to reach roofs for safety
- Use proper tools and equipment if tackling the job yourself and take precautions on ladders
- Dispose of wet, moldy debris immediately after cleaning
- Consider gutter guards to reduce debris accumulation between cleanings
- Examine downspouts for clogs and clear all drains of debris after cleaning gutters
Keeping gutters clean protects your home’s foundation and prevents water damage on both the exterior and interior. Follow these guidelines to determine the optimal times to clean your gutters and make the chore as safe and effective as possible. With proper gutter maintenance, your home will avoid many problems associated with overflow and moisture damage.