How often should homeowners clean out their gutters? The answer is twice a year. Gutters are part of a home's first line of defense from water damage. However, many people forget about this integral part of the drainage system until it fails.
What do gutters do? This maze of canals and downspouts redirects rainwater away from the home's foundation. However, clogged gutters can't do their job correctly. Ideally, the entire system remains clear of dirt, leaves, nests, and other unwanted debris. Bi-annual cleaning is a must. Thinking about skipping an upcoming gutter cleaning? Here's what might happen if you do:
1. Roof Leaks
A home's roof protects the interior from the elements. While shingles are designed to hold up against the occasional thunderstorm, they don't bode well against flooding. What can cause water to pool on the roof? Clogged gutters are one of the leading culprits.
When debris blocks the gutters, the entire system overflows. Water collects on the roof and begins to erode the surface. Over time, weakened shingles start to soften and rot. When this happens, a leaky roof is inevitable. Even worse, homeowners might not realize the problem until they find water dripping from their ceiling.
2. Gutter and Fascia Damage
Gutters are a long-term investment. Galvanized steel and aluminum varieties last for about 20 years, and copper gutters have a life expectancy of 50 years! However, forgetting to clean out the gutters can drastically reduce lifespan.
Clogs can quickly bend or warp the gutters. The gutters can split if there is enough force at the seams. Leaking gutters are also dangerous for the fascia. The weight of clogged gutters puts additional strain on the fascia, tearing it away from the house. Replacing damaged gutters and fascia is expensive. That's why it's better to clean the drainage system regularly.
3. Interior Home Damage
Gutters keep excess water away from a home's perimeter, but all it takes is one clog to prevent adequate drainage. With time, water might overflow and work its way inside the house. Moisture can ruin a person's belongings quickly. It leaves behind ugly stains on the walls and ceiling, causes wood rot, and destroys electronics. Water damage often costs thousands of dollars to repair.
4. Decreased Indoor Air Quality
Pollution doesn't only affect the air outside. It can also wreak havoc on a home's indoor air quality. Many homeowners don't realize the role gutters play in keeping the air healthy. This drainage system keeps moisture away from a building's interior. If the gutters leak or fail, it's only a matter of time before the water makes its way inside, increasing the risk of mold and mildew.
Mold spores can cause a wide range of health problems. Watery eyes, itching, sneezing, and wheezing are just a few allergy-like symptoms people might experience. Dangerous mycotoxins can cause more severe illnesses, including nervous system problems, immunodeficiency, or cancer. Mold and mildew spread in damp, wet places. Keeping gutters clear of debris and in good condition will reduce the risk of mold contamination in a home.
5. Cracked Foundation
Well-maintained gutters direct rainwater away from a home's perimeter. However, clogged gutters prevent water from draining effectively. When this happens, water will spill over and pool on the ground. The excess water might freeze in the colder months and damage the foundation.
Why is foundation damage common in the winter? Water expands when it freezes, putting extra force on the foundation. If the water expands too much, the foundation might crack. Unfortunately for homeowners, fixing these cracks is very expensive. The national average cost for foundation repair is $4,500, but more severe damage can run $15,000 or more. Regular cleaning can prevent foundation problems from forming in the first place.
6. Basement Flooding
Basements provide extra living and storage for homeowners. But unlike other rooms in a house, basements are sensitive to moisture and highly prone to humidity. Many homeowners install sump pumps to remove excess water from this space. These devices ensure water levels don't rise too high in normal conditions. However, forgetting to clean the gutters can lead to basement flooding.
When water collects around a home's exterior, it's only a matter of time before it enters through windows, cracks, or other entry points. Too much water can overwhelm the sump pump, leading to flooding. Damage to the walls, floors, and personal items is inevitable. Further, removing water from the basement is a pricey endeavor. Cleaning the gutters on a regular schedule can prevent basement flooding.
7. Dangerous Ice Dams
Icicles look pretty in pictures but are a menace in real life. As temperatures plummet, any excess water in the gutters will freeze. Ice dams may form on the roof as a result. Not only do ice dams add unnecessary weight to the roof, but they are also a safety hazard. All it takes is one falling icicle to send someone to the hospital.
8. Rodent Infestation
Gutters look like the ideal nesting place for many small rodents. These animals crawl up the downspouts and build nests inside the drainage system. Mice might look cute from afar, but they can cause extensive damage to a home. Rats, mice, and squirrels have a reputation for chewing electrical wiring, which is expensive to replace. Further, rodent droppings can spread disease. Keeping gutters free of nests will prevent these unwanted guests from staying the night.
9. Ruined Garden Beds
Garden and flower beds add plenty of curb appeal, but too much water can destroy them. Clogged downspouts and gutters are a gardener's worse nightmare. Clogs cause water to overflow and spill out, flooding the landscaping. Clean gutters twice a year to ensure rainwater stays away from garden beds.
10. Decreased Home Value
A clogged drainage system can cause widespread damage to a home, reducing property value. Buyers don't want to purchase a property that needs extensive repairs. If the homeowner needs to sell, they might have to accept a less-than-desirable asking price. Keeping the gutters in working condition will help boost home values in the neighborhood.
Is It Time to Clean the Gutters?
When was the last time you hired someone to clean the gutters? Bi-annual cleanings are crucial. Skipping this important service can cause property damage, expensive repairs, and a lot of headaches. Hire a professional with the skills and tools needed to clean every inch of your home's drainage system.