When considering what types of maintenance a home may need, the gutters and downspouts are often left as an afterthought or skipped altogether. After all, how bad could it really be if the gutters are a little slow draining or aren’t cleaned regularly? The truth is, leaving gutters and downspouts with less than optimal maintenance has some serious consequences that might not become obvious until an expensive problem arises. Most homeowners have their roof cleaned a couple times per year in order to keep it in good shape and gutters and downspouts require the same amount of maintenance, if not more depending on where your home is located. As a rule of thumb, two cleanings per year is considered average. Any less and there is enough time from problems to begin to fester.
Although twice per year is average, for people in very rainy and damp climates, like here in Orlando, this might not be enough. If regular rainfall is part of your local climate, then there is a greater chance for leaves and other organic matter to stay damp and form a mass that can block the drainage route, whereas a more dry climate might help for some of the debris to slide through the system or be blown away before it ever becomes an issue. A damp climate allows mold and moss to grow as well, which can end up causing gutter problems. Also, once your drains and gutters become clogged and are starting to overflow, there is a greater chance that you will experience damage faster than in a drier climate since the rain and blockage issues are happening more frequently.
Nearly every property has some kind of shrubbery or nearby plant life. What homeowners don’t always realize is that some plants and trees pose a threat to your gutters and drains more than others. For example, if your home has pine trees nearby the needles are notorious for clogging drains and gutters. Even pine trees that are over twenty feet away have been shown to leave needles in the gutters of homes. When pine trees are around, gutter cleaning needs to be done four times per year so that the needles don’t have a chance to cause blockages. It only takes ten needles trapped in the gutters to cause slow drainage, which in a heavy rain could lead to overflowing of the gutters and may cause damage to your home.
The same goes for any trees that are near your home since they can release leaves, although pine needles are still the worst. Vines that grow on the face or sides of your home may occasionally find their way into your gutters, in which case a good trim of the vines is necessary as well as the gutter cleaning. When living in a stormy climate or after experiencing a stormy season, it is also important to have gutters cleaned as the high winds can easily carry over debris that may become lodged in your drainage system if left unattended.
When foregoing the cleaning of your gutters the first symptom that homeowners might notice is that the gutters will overflow during heavy rains since the clogged gutters are too slow draining for the amount of water that is coming off of the roof. When this happens, the water can run down the side of the building. This not only tends to stain nearly any kind of siding material on your home, but it also leads to damp basements and surrounds the foundation of the building with water. This could cause premature rot or leaky basement walls. The whole point of gutters and drains is to keep the water as far away from the base of your home as possible. The more clogged the gutters become, the less well they drain and the faster they accumulate new debris to make the clog worse. In extreme cases of not cleaning gutters, they can become so heavy that they actually start to detach from the roof and may fall down altogether, a costly situation.
Although cleaning the gutters isn’t something obvious for the average homeowner, it is definitely a key part of home maintenance. Not everyone has the free time to clean their gutters and drains twice per year, but thankfully there are professionals who can do the job well without interfering with your life and can advise you about any potential problems with your gutters before they get out of hand. Also, hiring a professional avoids the need to climb a ladder and taking the risk of falling from a high height. A good way to remember to have your gutters cleaned is to time the cleanings with other regular maintenance, such as roof cleaning or pressure washing.
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