Let’s face it; cleaning out your gutters is a dirty, inconvenient, time-consuming task. But take a second to remember the reason it’s on your to-do list, and you might change your mind: Your gutters help keep your home dry and safe. By directing water away from the house, gutters reduce the chance of hefty water damage to your basement, siding, roof, walls, foundation, and more. Those are some big bucks you’re putting on the line if clearing a little debris away doesn’t get done.

So, yes—gutter maintenance is a valuable (albeit tedious) chore. However, it is not without risk, and is a task that could lead to serious injuries if proper safety precautions aren’t taken. At Renewal by Andersen, we’ve learned a thing or two about completing tasks at great heights. Whether we’re installing a window up high or teaching you the techniques to keep it clean, we’ve developed a working knowledge of the safety precautions and maintenance tricks for these kinds of jobs. Follow a few of our tips and tricks to make your gutter-clearing chore quick, easy, and safe:

Stick to a timeline

Wouldn’t it be nice if homes came complete with an instruction manual? Many homeowners are left on their own to figure out the dreaded “how often?” question. How often should I… cut the grass? Stain my deck? Test my sump pump? Replace my windows? Or in this case, clear my gutters? Well, we’ve found the golden answer: as a general rule, you should clean your gutter twice a year—ideally at the end of each spring and fall season.[1]

However, keep in mind that environmental changes can create exceptions. If there are large overhanging trees above your gutters, you may want to double that frequency or do a little tree trimming. Or, if a particularly nasty storm rolls through, it’s a good idea to take the time to clear the debris instead of letting it molder and collect other debris.

Take general safety precautions

You never know what you’ll find in the gutter, so it’s best to be prepared for the unexpected. Dirty water and rotting leaves contain bacteria, while old gutters may have torn metal shards. In addition, it’s not uncommon to find wasps, bees, rats, frogs, or birds hiding out there (or evidence of their presence, anyway). To guard yourself and to keep potentially minor issues from escalating into bigger, more painful problems, ALWAYS be sure to wear eye protection and heavy-duty work gloves while cleaning your gutters.

Speaking of potential painful problems, and fear of heights aside, the heart of your safety should be the ladder you’re on throughout the job. Give yourself some peace of mind, and avoid using an old or rickety ladder. Wooden ladders are often difficult to balance on, and many are not tall enough to safely get the job done (that warning note that says “This Is NOT a Step” isn’t just for show—don’t over extend yourself).

Borrow or invest in either a fiberglass or aluminum ladder instead. Four-legged step ladders for single-story structures and an extension ladder for two-story buildings or taller work best.

Finally, remember there’s safety in numbers: after you’ve donned your protective gear and have put up the correct ladder for the job, make sure you have someone within sight throughout the entirety of the project.

Helpful Tools to Use

If you’ve got your gloves ready to go, you might be tempted to use your hands to clear the debris. But if you want to be efficient (or protect your manicure), try using a gutter scoop. Plastic scoops are typically the best choice, as they have a thin front edge that can form itself to the bottom of the gutter trough, making it easy to deal with all kinds of debris.[2]

Good luck and happy fall cleaning!

[1] http://www.harryhelmet.com/how-often-should-you-clean-your-gutters/

[2] https://household-tips.thefuntimesguide.com/2011/08/cleaning-gutters.php