Here's How Often To Clean Your Gutters, According To An Estate Management Expert

Gutters play a crucial role in protecting your house. They direct rainwater away from the roof and foundation preventing water damage. However, to function effectively, gutters need regular cleaning to avoid blockages from leaves and debris. Cleaning your gutters might not be the most glamorous home maintenance task, but neglecting this chore can lead to a range of problems. From aesthetic issues like those ugly black streaks that are so hard to clean to a buildup of granules that signal it's time to replace your roof entirely, it's important to keep your gutters in optimal condition. 

But, how often should you clean your gutters in order to do that? It's not often that we are on our roofs to inspect damage or buildup in our gutters, so it can be hard to estimate when a cleaning is necessary. Luckily, Outdoor Blog spoke exclusively to gutter expert Peter Hansen, co-owner and managing member for Sparrow Estate Management who gave us the insights you need to keep your gutter clean and functioning optimally.

Aim for biannual cleans to avoid buildup

Most roof and gutter care experts recommend cleaning your gutters at least once or twice a year, typically at the beginning of spring and the end of fall. These timeframes allow you to remove snow and ice clogs that may have accumulated during the winter, as well as any fallen leaves over the course of autumn, which are major sources of buildup in our gutters. 

Why is buildup so bad? When gutters are clogged, they aren't able to direct water away from our property as well as they should. Hansen says that bad gutter irrigation can affect the run off to your lawn and pathways and even cause water damage to your property's foundation and roof. In addition, debris can build up and put unnecessary weight on your gutter line which could cause structural issues. 

Last, by not frequently cleaning your gutters, you may be leaving insects and pests an opportunity to infest and nest in your gutters. Essentially, Hansen boils it all down, saying, "if you don't clean your gutters frequently, you run the risk of incurring unnecessary landscape, foundation, insect, pest, and roof damage issues." 

What are the best tools to clean gutters?

To clean your gutters, Peter Hansen recommends using a screwdriver or drill to remove any gutter caps, if you have them. A mini gutter rake or mini gutter scoops are also worth the purchase, since they fit inside most gutters (which are typically narrower than the width of your fist). Additionally, a telescoping pole with a mini gutter rake or scoop attachment can be useful to reach far away and reduce the movement that is required of you while on your roof. It's also helpful to have a bucket or debris chute to scoop the debris into. That way you won't have to push debris onto the ground for extra cleanup later. Last, once you have thoroughly removed all the large debris, use a hose with a spray attachment for the final rinse. Of course, Hansen suggests using gloves the entire time to keep your hands protected. 

Hansen admits that it can be dangerous to clean your gutters — especially if you don't inspect, prepare, and have the proper protection and tools. He says that the most important thing you can do to keep safe is evaluate how you can safely access your gutters. Your options are usually getting directly on the roof, depending on the pitch of your roof, or getting up high via ladder. Alternatively, if you have a telescoping gutter rake, you may be able to reach your gutters from closer to the ground.

Are gutter caps worth the investment?

Another way to keep your gutters cleaner for longer is to install gutter caps, but even those aren't perfect. According to Hansen, "Overall, they do a very good job at keeping out small-large debris from your gutter line. That being said Any debris that collects on top will break down to micro debris and collect within the actual gutter. Same goes for dirt that is washed off your roof and into your gutter." 

So, even with gutter caps in place you will need to manually clean your gutters. Plus, with gutter caps, you'll need to take the added step of removing these protector sections before cleaning your gutter. That's why Hansen advises that you make sure the installer pays special care to how they are fastening gutter caps to your gutter line, ensuring that it is easy and safe for you to remove them when you clean. 

Worst case scenario is that the installer screws the gutter caps directly into the roofline so you need to unfasten the sections. In these cases, the sections can be quite long so you may even need to phone in another person to help you handle this removal. In terms of brands to look out for, Hansen says that Leaf Filter, Leafguard, and Gutter Guards of America are the best available.