Is Gutter Cleaning Really Necessary?

Homeowner Learning

Author: Lee Polevoi | October 13, 2023

Gutter cleaning may not be the first thought on a homeowner's mind, considering all the upkeep needed around the house. It may even be a task you try to avoid. But looking more closely at the potential issues caused by not cleaning or maintaining your gutters, you may want to move this task higher up on your priority list.

Roofing professional cleans a house's gutters from a ladder
Gutter cleaning is a key task for homeowners that should be done regularly.

Gutters keep your home in good shape by redirecting the flow of rainwater away from the roof and walls. Clean, unimpeded gutters and downspouts carry rainwater away from the foundation, helping to preserve its integrity.

When gutters aren't properly maintained, they "can turn from a necessity to a nightmare," as the Orange County Register notes. Clogs of leaves, soil and other debris can cause leaks or water damage to both the inside and outside of the house, while also making a cozy spot for rodents' nests and bee and wasp infestations.

No one wants a roof full of leaks and mice. So what should you watch out for? Learn when to clean the gutters yourself and when to call a professional roofer to help you out.

Common Gutter Issues

Some gutter problems are obvious and easy to spot, while others are potentially more insidious:

  • Roof and siding damage. Clogged gutters cause rainwater to flood over, which can lead to rot on shingles and sheathing. Water dripping down the side of the house and pooling near the roof also leads to ice dams in the winter that may cause more extensive disrepair.
  • Cracked or crumbling foundations. Water spilling over from clogged-up gutters has to go somewhere. Unfortunately, a common destination is in a house's basement, crawl space or foundation. Left unchecked, mold and rot can set in, leading to cracks in the foundation and other damage.
  • Pests. Unwanted pests can make a home inside obstructed gutters. Besides mice and wasps, these pests can include birds, raccoons or rats. If standing water pools at the base of the house, you could also find yourself fighting a mosquito or fly infestation.
  • Gutter disrepair. When overflowing with tree debris or other objects, the gutters can fall off the roof, damaging shingles and other external parts of the house.

Any of these unwanted threats should be enough to prompt regular roof and gutter inspections.

DIY or Call for Help?

Experts suggest homeowners clean their gutters once or twice a year, more often if there's bad weather. But, warns Homestructions, don't just brush out the leaves; inspect the inside and outside for mold, loose parts and clogs. It's also a good idea to replace broken drain pipes and remove any asphalt shingle debris from gutters as soon as possible.

Regular gutter cleaning is often something homeowners can handle on their own, as long as they observe basic safety measures. Use a sturdy, well-balanced ladder that's securely planted on a hard surface. Don't stand on the ladder's top rung, and avoid resting the ladder on the gutters themselves to prevent the possibility of them collapsing.

To reduce your gutter maintenance, you can also consider products like gutter guards that keep debris out in the first place.

More serious cleaning or repair issues such as broken tiles or bent gutters are best left to a professional roofing contractor. They have the equipment and expertise to carefully assess the working condition of your gutters, as well as any weather or water damage to your roof.

Just as importantly, a contractor can point out high-risk areas where future damage could occur, and suggest the maintenance steps you can take to prevent it. So don't wait until you have trees growing out of your eaves — keep your gutters in good shape with regular cleaning and repair.