Good drainage is very important to your home's structural well-being. Gutters and downspouts, which are connected to the roof and are the main components of a home's outdoor drainage system, must be kept clear to prevent storm water from overflowing or backing up. Blocked gutters can cause erosion around the house, damage to the exterior walls, basement leaks, and -- eventually -- uneven settling of the foundation.
To prevent these drainage problems, regularly maintain your gutters and downspouts, and repair them at the first sign of trouble. When you work on your gutters, follow the roof safety procedures outlined earlier in this article.
At the minimum, clean your gutters twice a year, in late spring and late fall. If you live in a wooded area, clean them more frequently.
A plastic scoop is an ideal gutter-cleaning tool. Wear work gloves to protect your hands. To clean the gutters shovel out leaves and other debris with the plastic scoop. Work from a ladder that's tall enough to let you reach the gutters comfortably. As you work, move the ladder frequently. Don't lean or bend to reach to either side or you might lose your balance.
After cleaning out all the loose debris, flush the gutters with a garden hose. Check the downspouts by flushing them with the hose. If a downspout is clogged, you can break up the clog with a plumbers' snake fed down through the opening in the gutter. Clear out any remaining debris with the hose.
To keep the downspouts clear, use a wire leaf strainer at each one. Insert a leaf strainer into each downspout opening along the gutters, then push it in just far enough to hold it steady. The strainer will prevent sticks and other debris from entering the downspout and clogging it.
Many homeowners use plastic or metal screening leaf guards on their gutters to keep leaves from building up. Leaf guards are not effective against leaf fragments, leaf cases, and other small debris that can go right through the screening. Gutters covered by leaf guards must still be cleaned regularly, and leaf guards may make the cleaning much more difficult.
After cleaning out the gutters, let them dry thoroughly, and inspect them for signs of damage. Rust spots and holes can be mended with scrap wire screening and asphalt roof cement. Find out how on the next page.