As a homeowner, it’s easy to forget about your eavestroughs. Unremarkable and unobtrusive, it’s easy to focus on your home’s overall appearance and maintenance, and overlook the gutters lining the edges of your roof.
Your eavestroughs, or gutters, perform a simple task and are essential in protecting your home from water damage. Precipitation runs down your roof into the eavestroughs, down the downspout, onto the ground and away from your home, keeping water away from your walls and landscaping, and avoiding pooling in areas where it can damage your foundation.
What seems like a little rain shower can quickly add up; just six millimetres of precipitation falling on an average Alberta home amounts to around 1,200 litres of water; that’s about six full bathtubs dropping on your house during an average rain shower!
A few simple steps can help you ensure your eavestroughs are working as intended, and that precipitation doesn’t collect in them, causing problems down the road. In fact, a common rule of thumb is to check and clean your eavestroughs twice a year; just a little work to maintain them during these inspections can save you a lot of heartache later.
Your most important tool? A good ladder.
To begin with, if you’re maintaining your eavestroughs personally (as opposed to hiring a professional), ensure you have a stable and sturdy ladder that will support your weight. A surprising number of hospital emergency room visits are the result of ladder accidents, so make sure you’re careful and alert.
Try not to reach too far while on the ladder; it’s safer in the long run to step down to the ground and move the ladder rather than stretching too far and compromising your balance when you’re a few meters off the ground!
If you don’t feel comfortable climbing a ladder, hire a professional to come do the work for you. Prices can vary, but are commonly calculated on how many storeys your home is, how many linear metres of eavestroughs you have, and of course, the cost of qualified labour.
Inspecting the situation
Once you’re at eye level with your eavestroughs, have a look inside. You’ll likely see a combination of natural materials, including leaves, branches, seeds, pinecones, mud, bird nests and much more.
Over time, these relatively small pieces of debris can build up, and a relatively small obstruction can quickly clog up your gutter, causing precipitation to overflow the edges, and leading siding and soffits to rust or rot. If enough debris is present, pooling water can also add significant weight to the gutter and pull it away from your home.
A hands-on cleaning job
Wearing work gloves, reach into the eavestrough and pull out any debris that’s inside; if you’d rather, you can always use a small garden tool. Drop anything you pull out down to the ground, or put it in a bucket attached to the ladder for faster and easier clean-up.
Don’t neglect your downspouts either. Frequently they have plastic or wire mesh strainers where they meet the eavestroughs, helping to keep debris from entering the downspout. Ensure these strainers are kept clear of mud and obstructions.
Remove any debris you can reach safely, or carefully bring your hose up to the top of the downspout to run water through it. If the flow is obstructed, you can either spray more water at it at a higher pressure, or push obstructions through with a stick or plumbing snake until it’s cleared. Many downspouts are attached to gutters with a simple bolt or bracket; you can remove the downspout and work on it on the ground in safety.
Once the eavestroughs and downspouts are free of large pieces of debris, run some water from your hose through them to wash out any remaining dirt. If the water running out the downspout is clear, that’s a sign of some clean eavestroughs!
Protection on the ground
Next, it’s important to ensure what comes off your home is draining away correctly. Many downspouts are connected directly to underground rain leaders, pipes that direct water away from your property. If you don’t have these underground rain leaders, attach a leader system of your own. These can be aluminum extensions that match your eavestroughs or long, flexible plastic pipes. This final step helps direct water away from the ground next to your home, where it can pool and damage your foundation and basement.
Save it for a rainy (or snowy) day
Now that your eavestroughs are clean, remember to keep an eye on them during the next rain or snow storm. If you see water overflowing the gutter’s edges, or large icicles forming, some maintenance is again required.
Cutting back tree limbs that hang over your eavestroughs can reduce the volume of leaves and debris accumulating in them, and if you don’t have them already, consider getting strainers or screens to cover the downspouts.
Checking your eavestroughs twice a year can save you money and will help protect the integrity and value of your home.
Watch your worries about your gutters just drain away!