A debris-clogged gutter can cause a leaky roof or water damage to the interior or exterior of your home.
Gutters are an integral piece of your home’s well being. They serve to control the flow of rainwater to protect your roof, walls, foundation and landscape.
But when neglected, experts say gutters can turn from a necessity to a nightmare. A gutter clogged with leaves, sticks and other debris can cause a leaky roof or water damage to the interior or exterior of your home. Contractors say gunked-up gutters also make nice homes for pests, rodents, mold and honeycombs from bee infestations. If your roof has been re-shingled left over pieces of single debris and nails can cause drainage issues too.
“If you let gutter cleaning go by the wayside, it can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars," says Ken Dykstra, Owner of Keen 2 Klean in Cambridge, Ontario.
“Gutters are a potential bomb above your head full of insects and critters, if you let them stay out of sight, out of mind,” Dykstra added.
How often should they be cleaned?
It depends largely on where you live and, most importantly, how many trees are in your yard. Dykstra, recommends having gutters maintained in the spring and fall.
“I recommend people calling me in the Spring and fall when all of their leaves are down or almost down, Dykstra says. “In the springtime, maple trees get those little helicopters that go everywhere, including into your gutter.”
Dykstra says it’s important to have a professional clean the downspouts as well because a clogged downspout "makes it hard for the rain to go down and that causes them to back up and overflow the gutter, which can cause damage to your home.”
You can judge how often to clean your gutters based on how often leaves in your area fall and the types of leaves, Dykstra says.
“It should be on everyone’s to-do list, depending on the tree climate,” he says. “In a high-yield environment, leaves fall all year-round. You can’t wait until the last leaf falls.”
Cleaning your gutters of leaves and other debris once or twice a year will protect your home from water damage.
Gutter covers reduce debris
Leaf guards significantly decrease the need for gutter maintenance, but they don’t eliminate the need completely, Dykstra says.
Instead of every four to six months, you may only need to maintenance gutters with covers or screens every one to three years. The frequency of maintenance will depend on the quality of the cover and the type and quantity of trees in the yard, he says.
Even if you do have gutter covers, it's still a good idea to do a visual check each year, says Dykstra.
Dykstra says a guard will not keep all the debris out, adding: “Up to 15 to 20 percent can still get in, and you still have to remove the guard. Sometimes you need a professional to do so.”
It’s important to purchase quality covers and screens if you want to effectively limit the need for gutter maintenance, says Dykstra.
“You need to look for one that’s strong enough to hold up and suits your type of trees,” he says.
A gutter cover costs on average between $1,500 to $2,500 depending on the size of the home and length of gutters, Murray says.
Do the job yourself or hire?
Although cleaning gutters is a task most homeowners can do themselves, it can be dangerous work.
Before climbing a ladder, be sure it's sturdy and all the steps are in good condition. Climb the first two steps to determine if the ground is level. For soft soil, place plywood under the legs of the ladder. You should also make sure not to rest the ladder on the gutters themselves because the additional weight can cause them to collapse.
During a cleaning, a professional should remove of all debris from the roof, gutters and downspouts, while checking and repairing any loose gutter spikes. The cost of gutter cleaning ranges from $75 to $225 for an average home, depending on the length of gutters, height of the home and scope of work. Most companies charge a flat fee per foot of gutter, but the cost can go up depending on the complexity of the work.
For example, Keen 2 Klean charges .95 cents per foot of gutter but will charge more for labor-intensive jobs, Dykstra says.
Before hiring someone to clean your gutters, check that they carry "liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance" for any employees they bring to the job.