Periodically gutter and downspout cleaning is one of those home improvement chores that is simple or cheap enough that you have no excuse not to get it done. If your spouse has the good sense to yell at you about this, know that they're right and you're wrong. Worst-case scenario, if you don't have an appropriate ladder and can't borrow one, then call a handyman. Typical homes can have a complete gutter and downspout cleaning done in about an hour. Letting your gutters go can cause serious water damage to your home's siding, roof, windows, basement, and foundation. Of course, after you take care of these problems, you'll probably also have to repair the gutters, too.
Gutter and Downspout Cleaning and Inspection
While you're cleaning, it's a good idea to keep a look out for the general condition of your gutters and downspouts. Look for rust, paint flaking, and that the gutters and downspouts are securely fastened. This is especially true after you've grabbed onto the gutter to keep from falling off the ladder (a la Chevy Chase). Take a look at the surroundings areas, as well, for dry rot or other damage. You may also need to adjust the slope of you gutters from time to time. They should slope toward the downspouts at a rate of approximately 1 inch for every 20 feet.
Gutters keep rainwater from damaging your home; downspouts safely channel the water away from home and into the ground. Sometimes the downspouts need a little extra help. This is where downspout extenders come into play. Downspout extenders are exactly what you think they are. They carry water a couple extra feet away from your home to ensure the water doesn't retreat back onto your foundation or into your basement. For poorly sloped yards or foundations grades that are below ground level, downspout extenders play an invaluable role. They can be rotated to keep any one spot in your yard from becoming inundated. Retractable extenders will minimize their visual intrusion into your home landscaping.
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Getting the Most from Your Money
One option to eliminate the need for regular gutter and downspout cleaning is to install gutter guards. Depending on the size of your home, this may not be a cost-effective solution. Gutter guards can be exorbitantly more expensive compared to hiring a handyman to come out to your house for an hour. Plus, you'll still need to rinse your gutters out every couple years. On the other hand, if you're just that person who's stubbornly lazy and hates a lengthy honey-do list, gutter guards can make for a sensible solution. If you decide to go this route, make sure your gutter guard can be easily removed in case you need access to your gutters.
Tip: For DIYers, not only should you be careful on your ladder, you should also use protective eyewear. Debris can be easily hurled from gutters during cleaning and, on a ladder, you're likely to be right at eye level.