How to inspect and clean your eavestroughs and downspouts
It’s time to get your mind in the gutter! Eavestroughs and downspouts are a crucial part of your home's defence against water damage. But both need regular maintenance to work properly. Minimize water worries at your home with these tips to keep your eavestroughs and downspouts clear of debris and in good working condition.
Eavestroughs, also known as gutters, are the channels that line the edge of your roof and collect rainwater. Downspouts are the vertical pipes that run from the end of each gutter down to the ground, where they divert water away from your home. Together, eavestroughs and downspouts help prevent water damage to your foundation walls and leaks in your basement. They also minimize the risk of damaged shingles and prevent water stains on exterior walls.
Watch out for overflows
If you're at home the next time there's a heavy downpour, grab your umbrella and take a walk around the house. You'll know if there's a blockage when you see the gutters overflowing. Excessive water can cause an alarming amount of damage to your roof and walls, or wherever it lands below. And that's not the only risk. If your gutters aren't draining properly, standing water can collect and serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
When to clean
It's a good idea to clean out your eavestroughs at least twice a year. Do one cleaning in late spring, once buds and flowers have come and gone, then another in late autumn after all the leaves have fallen from nearby trees. Try to clean your gutters when there hasn't been any rain for several days. That way, the debris will be drier and lighter, making it easier to remove.
Inspecting and maintaining your eavestroughs and downspouts means using a ladder. Make sure there's someone else around to hold the ladder steady and keep an eye on you. Watch out for any wires or power lines that might get in your way. Inspect your ladder before climbing it and, if you're using a stepladder, make sure the arms are firmly locked.
If you're cleaning upper stories, you'll need to use an extension ladder. Avoid causing damage to your eavestroughs by attaching standoff stabilizers or 'ladder horns.' These are curved arms that extend horizontally on either side of the ladder and rest against the wall or roof for added support.
Finally, remember the three-point rule: you should have both feet and one hand firmly holding the ladder at all times. Don't reach too far to either side and lose your balance - it's always better to move the ladder than risk injury.
Tools of the trade
Besides a ladder, you'll need two buckets, one for the debris and another to hold your tools. Use hooks or rope to attach the buckets to the ladder. Line your debris bucket with a garbage bag for easy cleanup. Wear work gloves to protect your hands from dirt and cuts, and consider using latex gloves underneath for added protection against wet, slimy gutter gunk. Bring along a trowel or plastic spatula to scoop up debris, and a hose to flush out the gutters.
It's best to start cleaning near downspouts and work away from them. That way, you'll avoid accidentally pushing material into downspouts and clogging them up. If you're using metal tools, be careful not to scrape or dig too hard - you don't want to damage the gutters.
After you've scooped up most of the debris, use the hose to flush out anything left behind. Once you're done, keep the hose running at a low water level to simulate rainfall and make sure the system is draining properly. If water is pooling in your eavestroughs, you may need to adjust their pitch - gutters should slope about half a centimetre toward the downspout for every three metres of horizontal length.
If your downspout is clogged, try to clear the blockage by turning your tap up to full pressure and feeding the hose up from the bottom. If that doesn't work, you may need to use a plumber's snake or drain auger to remove the jam.
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