Houston in the fall is a beautiful time of year. The leaves turn shades of brown, yellow, orange and red, and the air is crisp. It’s still warm enough to be outside and active, but at night, it’s perfectly okay to sit around a fire pit and relax.
As beautiful as the changing leaves may be, they aren’t completely benign if they happen to fall into the rain gutters on your home. Leaves, sticks and other debris can clog your gutters and cause rainwater to build up. If too much builds up, it could damage your gutters or even rot the wood of your home.
Though it’s never anyone’s favorite chore, cleaning your gutters can save you a lot of headaches further down the line. Here’s how clean gutters impact your home and some easy tips for keeping your gutters in tip-top shape all season long.
There are several pests that love the environment created by clogged gutters. They include:
- Mosquitoes: Mosquitoes are more attracted to the standing water in the clogged gutter than anything else. They love damp areas, and they typically lay eggs in these safe, wet zones. Mosquitoes usually breed in the springtime, so if you never clean your gutters in the fall or winter months, then you’re going to have a nasty swarm when the weather warms up. While you may think of mosquitoes as more or an annoyance than a real danger, remember that they spread West Nile virus and can also give your dog heartworm.
- Termites: Termites too love dampness. Water from clogged drains will often spill out from the gutters and collect near your foundation, keeping it perpetually damp. Termites are attracted to this dampness, and once they find the wood in your foundation, they will start feasting on it. As you probably know, termites can cause massive damage to your foundation, which will cost thousands of dollars to repair. The best line of defense against termites is to prevent them from getting to wood at all, and that means keeping your gutters clean.
- Carpenter ants: Carpenter ants come for the leaves collecting in your gutter, but they stay for the damp wood on your roof. The water sitting in your clogged gutter will dampen the wood used along your roof, which will make it easier for carpenter ants to move in. They too want a warm place to wait out the winter, and your attic is the perfect place to do it.
- Cockroaches: Perhaps everyone’s least favorite pest, cockroaches don’t need much of an incentive to move into your home, and your clogged gutters are enough of an invitation for them. Like carpenter ants, cockroaches enter homes through the damp wood and get into your attic. You’ve likely heard that keep food sources covered and fixing leaky pipes will keep roaches away, but homeowners will perpetual roach problems are probably missing a key source of entry near their clogged gutters.
You don’t want these pests invading your home, and one of the best things to do is not to give them the opportunity to move in. If there’s no standing water in your gutters, mosquitoes will look elsewhere to lay their eggs, and the other pests won’t have a way in through the damp wood in your roof.
Best tools for cleaning your gutters
To do a good job cleaning your gutters — and what’s the point of doing it at all if you’re not going to do it well — then you’ll need a good set of tools to get the job done. Cleaning gutters can feel like a daunting task, but if you have the right tools, you’ll feel like you’re already halfway through with the chore.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A sturdy ladder: You’re going to be up on your ladder a lot, so invest in a good one that makes you feel safe and secure. Make sure the ladder is tall enough so you don’t have to reach while on the top step. You’ll be more likely to fall that way.
- Rubber gloves: No one should reach a bare hand into a gutter to clean it out. There could be insects in there already, or a sharp twig could stab a hand. Protect your hands with a good pair of rubber gloves, preferably ones that reach down to the elbows.
- A large bin or tarp: As they’re scooping out leaves and debris, some people just drop it all on the ground and pick or rake it up later. That way works just fine, but if you put a bin or tarp near your ladder, you can drop everything there instead. When you’re finished, just haul it away.
- A long, skinny shovel or rake: It may be difficult to move your ladder back and forth, and you may not have level ground all around your home. A long shovel or rake can help you reach farther down your gutter and pull leaves closer to you.
- A bucket: You’ll need to wash out your gutters with water once you’ve cleared away all the leaves. This will push anything you missed down to the ground where you can scoop it up and toss it in your bin with the other debris.
You can pick up all of these tools at your local hardware store or at any big-box retailer like Home Depot or Lowe’s.
5 simple tips for cleaning your gutters
Few people actually enjoy cleaning gutters, but it’s an important part of home maintenance and it will keep your home in good condition. If you need a few tips to get you motivated, check out these five to help you get started.
- Make checking your gutters part of your lawn care routine. Every week, you mow the lawn, check for weeds and water your plants. Why not make checking your gutters part of that routine? If you check and do a little cleaning at a time, then you won’t have such a big job to do.
- Keep your gutter cleaning tools in an accessible spot. Carve out a place in your garage or shed where all your gutter-clearing tools can sit together. You won’t have to go hunting for everything, and it will save you time.
- Steady your ladder on a flat surface. This can be difficult in some yards, so if possible, try to flatten or level a few spots around your home where a ladder can stand still and even. You’ll feel more confident doing the job if your ladder isn’t shaking.
- Look for potential infestations while you’re up there. If you see wiid that looks like it’s rotting or potential holes, check the inside of your home that correlates with that spot and call a general contractor to have it looked at. You don’t want to leave rotting wood left unchecked so move on it quickly before it becomes a serious problem.
- Know when to call a professional. If your home is too tall for the average ladder or you don’t feel safe on one, then there’s no shame in calling a professional to come clean your gutters.
If you’re good about regularly checking and cleaning your gutters and assuming your gutter is accessible by ladder, then there’s less of a chance that you’ll need to call in a professional to do the job for you. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with calling a professional, but if you’re looking to save money in the long run, doing routine checks can help you catch problems before they become too big for you to handle.
You can also get into the habit of regularly trimming the trees that drop leaves into your gutter. As we discussed in this previous blog about tree trimming, long branches that touch your rooftop act as a bridge for insects and rodents that want to get into your home. If you trim your trees, you’ll take away that access point and have less leaves trapped in your gutter.
No home is completely safe from any and all infestations. Insects and rodents are especially good at finding and exploiting the tiniest of weak spots in a home. But there all easy things that homeowners can do daily to prevent a large infestation. Cleaning out the gutters is just one big part of it.
Though it’s not a glamorous chore, cleaning out your gutters regularly does far more for your home than you may know. It’s worth paying a professional to do the cleaning for you. In the long run, you could end up paying thousands of dollars to repair termite damage to your home — and you’d still need to pay someone to clean out the gutters.
A little at a time is all it takes. Keep your gutters in good shape, and they’ll help keep pests out of your home.