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Fall is the time to clean your gutters

It’s fall and the annual ritual of raking up those colorful leaves begins. Fall is also the time to clean your gutters.

Leaves not only cover your landscape, they land in gutters and downspouts, clogging them, and can result in costly repairs. If rainwater or water from melting ice and snow can’t drain properly from the gutters, it will back up and leak into eaves, ceilings and walls. Additionally, water overflowing from a gutter can damage siding, the foundation of the home and even leak into the basement.

Gutters are an important function for your home, collecting rainwater from the roof and directing it, through downspouts, away from the foundation. A one-inch rainstorm can produce 1,000 gallons of water runoff from an average roof.

We all remember the winter of 2015’s record breaking snowfall resulting in ice dams that affected thousands of homeowners and businesses. Keeping gutters and downspouts clear will help reduce damage from melting ice dams.

Muddy sediment and wet leaves in a gutter adds weight and can cause it to pull away from the fascia. Also, a weighted gutter affects the pitch. If a downspout is heavily clogged, a hose should be used to blast out the debris. If that doesn’t work, a plumber’s snake should do the trick. Keeping gutters clean can extend their life.

The pitch of a gutter is also important to check. Water cannot properly drain if a gutter is level and must be properly pitched toward the downspout drain hole. A gutter should have a one quarter-inch pitch for every 10 feet.

Once the gutters and downspouts are cleaned, they should be checked for leaks. There are sealants specifically designed for gutters. The gutter fasteners should also be checked to make sure they are properly attached to the fascia boards.

Underground drainpipes can also clog and should be assessed. Leaves and sediment can make their way into an underground drain or dry well. If the dry well or drain clogs, it will cause water to back up.

Cleaning gutters can be dangerous and it’s best left to professionals. There are overhead powers lines to be aware of, dangers of falls from ladders and the risk of cuts from sharp gutter edges. Professionals have the proper equipment and knowledge to clean and repair downspouts and gutters. They can assess potential problems, heading off what could be a costly repair.

Proper tools must be used to clean downspouts and gutters. Sharp tools can scratch metal or damage wood. To reduce the risk of damage, a leaf blower can be used to blow leaves out of a gutter and a scoop or trowel should be utilized to remove grit and sediment.

Devices such as guards or screens that are designed to keep debris out of gutters are not a 100 percent solution to keeping gutters clean. Pine needles, small leaves, twigs and grit can work their way through the device. The guards must be removed in order to access the gutter and then be properly put back in place.

If water is pooling from the downspout onto a planting bed or near the foundation, extenders can be used to direct water away. The extenders attach to the end of the downspout and are flexible.

Fall isn’t just for raking leaves, fall is also the time to clean your gutters and should be part of your home preventive maintenance program. Once you’ve finished bagging those leaves this fall, check those gutters. And, it doesn’t hurt to inspect the gutter system from time to time to make sure it is in proper working order.