How Often to Clean Gutters
I got a call from a customer a few months ago who was in a minor panic to have her gutters cleaned. Her inlaws had visited the night before and when she answered the door to let them in, she found them dancing to avoid the waterfall coming from her overflowing gutters. They had a good laugh about the dancing, but my customer was not happy to see all that water running down her recently painted facia-boards and splashing all over her walls. I found her my first available spot on the schedule and then she asked a question I get all the time, “How often do people get their gutters cleaned?”
What Could Happen If I Don’t Clean My Gutters?
Most homeowners know that overflowing gutters cause bad things to happen. They’re totally right. It isn’t just annoying that rain spills over on your inlaws (though some might consider that a benefit–a little splash of schadenfreude for all those less-than-helpful side comments about your failings as a wife and mother). Overflowing gutters cause water damage. Whether it’s in the facia boards, the eaves, the soffits, the walls, in the attic, in the foundation, or with flooding in the basement, water where it’s not wanted is bad. Every so often we’re called to quote work for a long-distant landlord who hasn’t had his gutters cleaned in years and we just can’t help him. The gutters are falling off, the facia boards are water-logged or worse, the walls are rotting, and the real damage hasn’t even hit yet. The real damage hits the bank account as contractors pile up bills to fix what should never have been broken–and all for the want of a gutter cleaning.
Best Time Of Year To Clean Gutters
There’s not a “best time of year” to clean gutters, at least not generically speaking. Every house is different. Some don’t have a tree in sight, and the only things likely to clog the gutters are the slow accumulation of moss rolling down from the roof, or the tennis ball tossed up there by a kid being a kid. Homeowners in this situation can get away with years of not cleaning out their gutters. Other houses sit under a canopy of trees so thick you could clean out all your gutters one day only to find them discouragingly full again one month later.
And all trees are different. Deciduous trees have a fall. This is way easier to work with. Conifers have a more of a here-and-there falling. And then throw in the weather and altitude variance. Leave aside (haha) the season of autumn, fall comes when it does. I’m talking here about leaf-fall. Nothing is more frustrating than having your gutter cleaner come out to clean your gutters on the exact date he always comes, only to find out two weeks later that fall was late this year and the firs were nowhere near done raining down their lovely needles.
So for those who want an easy answer about the best time of year to clean gutters, I’m sorry to disappoint. It turns out the best time of year to clean out your gutters is long before they’re full and overflowing and not so often that you throw away good money for no reason.
How Often Should You Clean Your Gutters
Thankfully, it doesn’t matter how often or when other people get their gutters cleaned. The only question that really matters is, “How often should you clean your gutters on your house?” As tempting as it might be to call a company like ours and ask us, we won’t really know what you should do on your house until we’ve been out there for a few years, and even then we won’t know for sure if we’ve optimized your schedule so you aren’t buying too many cleanings. You alone are in the best position to come up with the right gutter-cleaning schedule for your home. The key here is to watch your gutters, not your trees.
Remember, the goal isn’t to wait until all the leaves have fallen from the trees before you clean your gutters. That’s a good way to have an overflow, waterlog, wood rot, flooding, and badness in the bank account. The goal is to keep your gutters working as they’re designed to work–catching leaves and channeling rainwater down through the spouts.
So how do you monitor what’s in your gutters? The clearest sign that they need to be cleaned is that they’re over-flowing. But, as I’ve just mentioned, you’re not supposed to go there. If you have a lower gutter you can look down on from above, which could give you a good idea as to what’s in the rest of the gutters. But most homeowners will need a tool to keep an eye on the gutters.
Here are a few ladder-free ideas:
- Use a painting pole (we really like the sturdy Sherlock poles) with a bicycle mirror (such as Zacro) attached to the end.
- Use your selfie-stick (if you haven’t thrown it out) with your phone if the reach isn’t too terrible.
- If you have a GoPro, you can put in on a pole if you have a mount.
- Get a drone. A drone for a job like gutter surveillance can be had for $60 or so. If you don’t feel savvy, put your kid on it. This is one chore he won’t mind too much.
Now that you have your tool, set up a monthly auto-reminder with an obnoxious alarm, and start your monitoring. You should have your gutters and downspouts cleaned when any one of your gutters is half-ways full. Take careful notes of the months you needed to have them cleaned.
Need Help Cleaning Your Gutters?
You have answered your own When? and How often? for cleaning your gutters. Now it’s time to decide if this is a job you like doing on your own. If so, set up your reminders on your calendar and when that obnoxious alarm goes off, get out there and show those gutters who’s boss. (Oh, and don’t forget the all-important downspouts.) If you don’t like cleaning your own gutters, call a reputable company to do it for you. If you’re in the Greater Bellevue or Seattle area, feel free to call Evergreen Window Cleaning & Home Maintenance. We clean gutters and downspouts all year for thousands of customers and we can set you up with automatic service visits based on your own schedule. If you need roof cleaning, moss treatment, or moss removal, we do that too! Check out our reviews from our customers