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A guide to keeping your gutters clean

| Insurance

In order to keep your home warm and dry, there are some measures that need to be taken, particularly when you’re thinking about preparing your home for a cold winter - such as cleaning your gutters. While this may seem like a cumbersome task, it’s a really important one. Read on to find out why.

Why are gutters important?

Gutters are an imperative part of your home. They direct rain water so that it drains off your roof and back to the ground or drainage system instead of causing damp and leak issues within your home. Further issues such as rot, deterioration and mould can occur without proper drainage too, and the excess water could begin to weaken any shingles, soffits and fascia. It can also cause issues with the foundations of your home, weakening the integrity and structure.

It’s important to keep in mind that issues like the ones mentioned above may not be covered by your home insurance policy should your guttering be ineffective or blocked.

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Do you have to have gutters on your house?

Guttering is certainly important but is it necessary? Building regulations are set by the government and most buildings, particularly residential buildings, have to meet these requirements.

Guttering is a necessity as laid out by building regulations, and they are quite strict about the size of the downpipes, where they’re positioned and where the water will drain too. To ensure that the gutters cannot overflow, there are also guidelines around how to calculate the flow rate.

These regulations are in place for a reason, so it’s important that your home has sufficient guttering.

Where rainwater is allowed to soak into the ground, provisions must be in place so that it is distributed evenly to avoid damaging the foundations or the structure of the building. Rainwater that comes from your guttering must flow into either a soakaway (a hole that’s filled with stone or rubble), a watercourse (a channel such as a river, canal, ditch, pipe or stream), a surface water or a combined sewer system.

What happens if gutters are blocked?

When your home’s gutters become blocked, the debris prevents rainwater from draining properly, and this could cause further issues like damp when the problem is left unattended for a long period of time. A blockage usually means the water has nowhere to go and instead flows over the top of the gutter rather than being directed into a drain, as it should. It can also result in broken guttering. This is usually caused by a buildup of water, which can weigh the gutters down and weaken the structure or split the joints.

How to clean gutters

Before cleaning a gutter, it’s important to note that this job can be tricky, especially if your home has more than one storey. Cleaning gutters can take a long time and it may be better to get someone else to do it if you’re worried about working at a height.

You should have a good quality ladder, as well as a pair of waterproof gloves and a bucket. If you’re not able to carry out this task yourself, enlist the help of a family member or a professional.

Step 1: Securing the ladder

The first step is to set up the ladder. Its feet should be placed on an even, stable surface and that there’s little to no chance of it moving while in use. Usually, it’s a good idea to have a second person stand at the bottom of the ladder to hold it in place, particularly on uneven surfaces.

It may also be a good idea to use a ladder stay to ensure that the gutters can be accessed properly. Generally, the gutters are fixed to fascia boards, which means that they overhang the wall by a few centimetres. This means when the ladder is put in place, it may be very difficult and dangerous to reach over and into the gutter. This makes a ladder stay essential.

Step 2: Scoop out the worst of the debris

The next step is to scoop out as much of the debris as possible, while wearing waterproof gloves. This may include leaves and twigs but also some sludge, which is why gloves are a good idea. The debris should be placed in a bucket. Buckets can be attached to a ladder using a ladder hook so that they don’t have to be held throughout the process.

Step 3: Continue to remove the debris

Next, the debris can be removed slowly and steadily, moving the ladder along the gutter regularly to avoid overreaching and working in small sections.

Step 4: Wash the gutters

Once the debris has been removed, use a hose to clean the gutters removing any final small bits of debris so they go down the downspout. At this point, you may wish to check that the water is exiting from the downspout and into a drain. If it isn’t, there may be an obstruction. This will need to be cleared, as it could cause drainage issues that may eventually lead to damp. You can use a plumber’s auger (also known as a plumber’s snake) to clear any blockages.

How often should gutters be cleaned?

Ideally, you should aim to have your gutters cleaned twice a year - once in late spring and again in late autumn. This is because these are the most common times for debris, such as seeds, pollen and leaves, to get stuck in the guttering.

To make the task a little easier, you could enlist the help of a specialist to get the job done biannually. This could be a good idea for houses that are more than one storey.

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