Fall is here, the season when gutters should be cleaned out in preparation for the snowy season ahead. Gutters should be cleaned two times a year, Spring and Fall, to prevent water damage and rusting.
So, now’s the time to clean out those clogged gutters, and to do it safely. If building owners and facilities managers knew the keys to safe gutter cleaning, they’d have fewer injuries, deaths, and property damage.
Following are 10 Tips for cleaning your gutters safely. And if you hire a contractor to do this work, make sure they do it safely.
• Practice Ladder Safety
Always let someone know when you are using a ladder to work on your building’s roof or gutters.
Use a safe, sturdy ladder—one with a small shelf strong enough to hold a five-gallon bucket for collecting gutter debris, and secure the bucket with a rope or cord. A four-legged stepladder is good for a single-story structure, and an extension ladder is ideal for a two-story or taller facility. Fiberglass ladders are the sturdiest, but are also the heaviest.
An orchard ladder is not recommended because it has only three legs that can become unbalanced. A wooden ladder is also not recommended because they are often wobbly and hard to balance.
Muscle fatigue can occur when moving a heavy ladder back and forth for hours. If this happens, try using an aluminum ladder, the second-choice option for strength and support.
Before climbing a ladder, inspect it for defects, dents, or loose parts. If it is fastened together with screws and bolts, make sure they are tightened. When using a stepladder, make sure the extension-hinge arms are fully extended and locked in place.
- Utilize A Garden Hose
Use a garden hose with a pistol-grip trigger spray nozzle so you can adjust the water pressure with one hand and easily hang the hose over the front edge of the gutter while moving the ladder or using a gutter scoop. This can be purchased at any hardware store.
- Get A Gutter Scoop
Scooping out leafy debris seems to be the optimum method for cleaning gutters. A plastic scooping tool is excellent for this job, and it can be purchased at most hardware stores.
The front scooping edge of a plastic scooping tool is very thin and forms itself to the bottom of the gutter trough. This makes it easy to scoop out the most difficult debris in any size gutter. An extension pole can also be attached to the gutter scoop to reach farther to clean the gutter, meaning fewer ladder moves.
A metal scooping tool is not recommended because it can damage the gutter’s bottom and seams. If this tool is used to scrape the bottom of a steel gutter it can rust.
- Protect Your Hands
Use gloves to protect your hands against dirty, rotting debris that might contain bacteria- ridden bird or squirrel droppings. You can also avoid painful cuts from torn metal shards from old gutters if you wear gloves and cotton gloves can sop up dirty water that contains bacteria.
Leather gloves are not as versatile and often shrivel up when they dry after cleaning. Rubber gloves can be torn by metal shards.
Thick, suede gloves are recommended because they are more durable than cotton, thin leather, or rubber.
- Protect Your Eyes
Since you never know what might fly out of the downspout when cleaning gutters, safety eyewear is a must. Invest in a good pair of safety goggles. Rats, birds, frogs, wasps, and bees can fly out while removing a clog and cause eye injury.
- Clean Off The Roof
Before cleaning a gutter, rake or power wash debris off the roof. Otherwise, all the debris will wash down into the clean gutter when it rains, clogging it up all over again.
Debris on the roof can also lead to dammed up water around the chimney or near heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment—eventually causing erosion and roof leaks.
- Consider Rubber Shoes
Rubber-soled shoes are necessary when walking on a roof to do gutter cleaning. They adhere best and prevent slipping and falling.
In the morning, rooftops tend to be wet, so it’s best to walk on a roof after the sun’s been up for a while and the roof has dried, e.g., late morning/early afternoon.
- Unclog The Downspouts
After you clean your gutters, run the water hose down the downspout at full pressure to clear them.
If the water backs up out of the top, a clog is present. Tap on the side of the downspout. If that doesn’t unclog it, remove the downspout and back, and flush from the bottom.
If there is a clog and the downspout connects to an underground drain, disconnect the bottom of the downspout from the drain to prevent the clog moving to the underground drain.
- Use Buckets Hooked to the Gutter for Debris and Tools
If on a ladder, use a bucket for gutter debris and one to hold tools. Attach the buckets to the ladder with wire hooks. Clear the area below the gutter and secure the buckets with a rope or cord so they can be safely raised and lowered.
- Be Mindful of Power Line Hazards
If gutters around a power line cable drop from the power pole to a roof, perform an inspection of the cable at the connection point to the roof. This ensures that weather and tree branches have not rubbed off the protective wire insulation hasn’t over the years.
Do not attempt to repair damaged cables. Call a licensed electrical contractor to fix them. Do not attempt to clean gutters in the rain and until electrical wire problems are fixed. Remember, water conducts electricity.
Rain or shine, it’s a good idea to repair electrical wiring before cleaning gutters.
Disclaimer: There are always risks and dangers in the task of gutter cleaning and with the use of ladders. Pierce Property Services may not be held liable in the case of personal bodily or property damage from the use of tips and techniques within this article, which are at the users’ own risk.