With a bad economy, it’s easy to venture into new territory to try and save a few dollars. However, when it comes to cleaning out, repairing, or replacing those clogged up gutters, you need to stop and think before you take that first step up an unforgiving ladder. Do-it-yourselfers need to make sure their insurance policies are up to date, because every year falls from ladders end up with more than just broken spirits. However, if you’re still willing to risk life and limb, then here’s what you need to know about cleaning gutters.

DIY

Do clean those gutters at least a couple of times a year — preferably in spring and fall. Some professionals recommend every three or four months, but at least two times a year is strongly advised.

Don’t try some ineffective and goofy contraption like a rake tied to a broom stick. You can end up doing more harm than good. The bottom line is you have to get the gunk out. You’ll need heavy duty gloves because the heavy leaves and debris are water soaked, moldy and rotting. Ambitious “neatnik” amateurs will try to do the job neatly with a bucket, but that bucket is going to get pretty heavy from the absorbent stuff filling the gutters.

By far, the best thing to do is to simply toss the debris to the ground below. Put out some type of disposable sheeting on the ground that you can quickly roll up and toss out afterward. You’re also going to need a hose to make sure the gutters are cleaned out properly.

If you just ignore cleaning your gutters, then two scenarios are likely. First, they will not function properly. This means they will not keep water off your roof and away from the house. This means that the water could easily end up in the walls and ceilings of your house. Ultimately, this is going to cost you. Secondly, the gutters will keep filling up year after year and get heavier and heavier. Eventually, the gutters will sag and start to pull away from their brackets and the roof. When they finally get so heavy that they fall, they can do incredible amounts of damage including breaking windows, ripping shingles off the roof and scraping the siding of your house. Again, the end result is going to cost you big time.

Never do this job alone. Make sure someone is with you. Safety always comes first. And never ever place that ladder up against the gutter itself. Pressing all that weight up against a gutter will damage it for sure. It will ruin its specific design and compromise its function. Therefore, you need to use a roof stand bracket.

Don’t keep sharp objects that you intend to use for scraping in your pocket. The only thing you should have in your pocket is a cell phone in case you get into trouble and need help. Plan on spending a lot of time doing this.

 

DDIY

All of the pros agree on one thing — safety is the first priority. According to Brian Gutterman of the Gutter and Roof Man LLC in Fairfield, the job must be done correctly. People who are not accustomed to working on ladders ought to leave it to the pros. If you opt to hire pros, then make sure that they are properly licensed and insured.

“There are a lot of people out there who are not licensed by the state of Connecticut or insured,” Gutterman said. “If an accident should occur, the homeowner is responsible.”

Russell Luery of Quality Seamless Gutters LLC in Ridgefield agreed and added that consumers should also contact the Better Business Bureau and get personal references before hiring someone. Luery, like most gutter pros, works year around.

“During the winter, amateurs who are not used to working on a ladder should not even attempt to chip away at ice and snow,” he said. “In the process, they punch holes right through the gutter.”

Just about all the pros offer leaf guarding gutters. Luery prefers to call them “maintenance friendly” because they, too, need to be checked and cleaned occasionally. Speaking from experience after having water in the ceilings because of faulty gutters, this writer sought out a leaf guard type gutter and can attest to the fact 10 years later that they are still wonderful.

Are they right for every home? Not necessarily. All of the pros say that each home is unique with different conditions. If you live in the woods with a lot of trees near the house, then you definitely have to clean your gutters regularly and leaf guard gutters, which are more costly, would be beneficial. Some homes are easier than others when it comes to cleaning gutters. If your house is located in a wide open clearing and is one level, then the needs will be different from a three-story house in the woods.

Overall, the pros know what type of gutter can work best for your home. Gutters come in various materials and most professionals take into consideration the aesthetic look of gutters on your home as well as which ones will function best for you. Just be sure to be safe and keep those gutters clean.