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How to Avoid Annual Gutter Cleaning


The fall and spring seasons cause many homeowners a lot of work every year. At these times, nature rains down stuff on our homes other than rain. This could include a lot of detritus from trees—leaves, pine needles, twigs, spring flowers off the trees (birch, oak, maple, cottonwoods, etc.), seeds and seed pods, not to mention things like the ball one of the kids threw up on the roof. All of this can accumulate in your gutters.


One of the seasonal tasks many homeowners have (sometimes more than once a year) is the need to clean out rain gutters on your house. Your rain gutters were put there to protect your house. They collect the rain that falls on your roof and channel it down the downspouts and away from your walls and foundation.


But all of that other stuff that fell on your roof, including bits of dirt and dust, can be blown into and collect in those rain gutters. When the rain runs down the roof, it washes all this into the rain gutter. Of course, the idea was that it would all run down the downspout, onto the splash blocks, and out on the grass.


Have you ever heard the adage, “Murphy is alive and well”? “Murphy’s Law” says that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Think of that list of things that can be washed down into you rain gutters. On a larger scale, beavers use stuff like that to build dams. On a smaller scale, that’s what can also happen in you rain gutters.


Material collects in the gutter instead of coming down the downspout. Once there is a little bit there, it catches and collects more. After a while the gutter may become clogged and the water runs right over the edge of the gutter, falling on the ground next to your foundation, splashing mud on the walls and maybe leaking into your basement—exactly what you installed gutters to avoid.


So, time to get out the ladder, climb up, and dig all the accumulated debris out of the rain gutter, right? Why do this every year, or sometimes two or more times a year? Do you really feel comfortable and safe wobbling around on top of a ladder, leaning way out to get that handful of leaves or bit of debris that is just out of reach?


There is another solution available. You can install some kind of cover that will deflect the big stuff (relatively speaking) and let the water freely flow into the gutter and down the downspout, like it was intended to do.


These devices come in different forms and have different names. They include gutter covers, gutter screens, gutter filters and hybrid gutter hoods that combine the hood and screen designs. They are installed on top of (or in) the gutter just below the eaves.


One simple design is a gutter screen, which uses some form of screen to catch the solids and pass the water. Most of the material caught by the screen may be blown off the screen; however, sometimes some material gets caught in the screen holes and accumulates on top. The stem tips from oak or maple leaves, or pine needles, can pass trough the holes. Sometimes they get caught in the screen and neither wind nor water will blow them off.  Screens are simple to install and keep most of the leaves and debris out of your gutters.  As one of the least expensive options, screens are a popular choice to combat clogged gutters.


A gutter hood is usually a solid vinyl, PVC, or aluminum cover with narrow slots. It is more successful at not accumulating leaves—the stems or points can’t pass through the slots. The hood covers the entire gutter and has just a tiny channel for the water to enter the gutter.  The debris dries off and then blows off more easily.


A hybrid gutter cover is much the same as a hood with many of the features of the gutter screen. There are many types of hybrids and the slots where the water enters can be holes, slits or even grids.  These are also quite successful in allowing the debris to blow off.


A newer technology is the gutter filter. This system uses a filter membrane installed inside the gutter. The idea is to fill up the gutter with something that will allow it to function and keep the water flowing.  The water goes through the sponge like material, the debris rests on top, dries out after the rain stops, and blows away.  The filter does not absorb water nor does it allow plants to seed and grow.


In other words, there are options available that can keep your rain gutters open, clean, and unclogged by leaves, twigs, and other debris.


You can undertake installing them yourself, but that puts you back wobbling around on top of a ladder. On the other hand, you can contact a gutter contractor. He can help you with your selection and do the installation—while you stay safely on the ground and enjoy the view. From then on, you can spend more days out doing whatever you (or your significant other) would prefer to do.