6 Gutter-Cleaning Mistakes That Could Lead to Disaster

Avoid these common gutter-cleaning mistakes by following proper schedules and safety measures.

Gutter cleaning is an essential home maintenance task that helps ward off damage to your foundation, leaks, and other serious issues. Although clearing debris from your gutters seems straightforward, this chore can be dangerous if it's not done correctly, especially since you'll likely be working on top of a ladder. It's even riskier if your home has a tall roof or if you've never done the job before.

To avoid costly errors and unsafe situations, there are several gutter-cleaning mistakes homeowners should take care to avoid. Following a few safety precautions and a regular cleaning schedule makes keeping your gutters clean and debris-free simple. Familiarize yourself with these common gutter-cleaning mistakes to ensure this maintenance task goes smoothly season after season.

person with orange garden glove cleaning out leaves and debris from roof gutter
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1. You don't clean your gutters often enough.

One of the most common gutter cleaning and maintenance mistakes homeowners make is simply not cleaning them as frequently as they should, according to Chris Counahan, president of LeafFilter Gutter Protection. At least twice a year is the typical recommendation, but more frequent cleanings could be necessary depending on your landscape.

"For example, if your house is surrounded by trees, you'll need to tend to your gutters more than twice a year since your gutters are exposed to more debris and leaves," he says. Pay attention to the condition of your gutters throughout the year, and if needed, mark semi-annual gutter cleanings in your calendar so you can ensure this chore gets done.

2. You clean your gutters at the wrong time.

Timing is also essential to ensure your drainage system works properly when needed. "Unpredictable weather and storms can increase damage to your home if your gutters are clogged or inadequate," Counahan says. Plan gutter cleaning ahead of periods when severe weather is typical in your area. For many places, that means cleaning gutters every spring and fall in preparation for summer storms and harsh winter weather.

3. You don't wear proper protective gear.

Gutter cleaning is a messy business, and you don't want to reach into a clump of dirty, rotting leaves bare-handed. Wear heavy-duty work gloves to keep your hands clean and protect yourself from any sharp objects that could be hidden in the debris. Additionally, rubber-soled shoes with good traction can help ward off slips on the ladder. And don't forget protective eyewear. "You never know what can fly out of the downspout when cleaning gutters," Counahan says.

4. You're not following ladder safety precautions.

A fall from a ladder can result in serious injury or even death, so proper safety measures are crucial when cleaning your gutters. Inspect the ladder carefully before use, and ensure the base has secure, even footing before climbing the ladder. If possible, have a family member or friend hold the bottom of the ladder for stability. If you don't have a helper, Counahan suggests letting another person know that you will be using a ladder in case an accident occurs.

While you're up on the ladder, aim to keep your hips between the side rails to maintain your balance and avoid overreaching. "Always move the ladder to a new spot instead of reaching farther down your gutters to avoid potential falls," Counahan says.

5. You're not using the right tools.

Scooping leaves and debris out of gutters with gloved hands can be effective, but specific tools can make the job much easier. For example, a shop vacuum outfitted with a gutter-cleaning attachment ($30, The Home Depot) can help quickly clear out light gutter debris, such as leaves or pine needles. For heavier buildup, some homeowners prefer to use a pressure washer to blast grime out of their gutters, Counahan says. However, if you can't operate the tool safely, it's best to clean your gutters by hand or call a professional to handle the job.

6. You haven't installed gutter guards.

Make cleaning easier by preventing debris from clogging up your gutters in the first place. Often made of perforated metal or mesh, gutter guards catch leaves, tree droppings, and other debris while allowing water to flow freely through your home's drainage system. If you live in an area with a lot of trees or sometimes neglect gutter cleaning, gutter guards can be a worthwhile investment that protects your home for the long run.

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