Your gutters do so much more than just direct water away from your house. They’re an essential defensive measure that protects your yard, foundation, roof and basement from long-term water damage. It can be easy to forget to keep them clean, but gutter cleaning is a vital step in home maintenance.
When gutters get clogged, they overflow and back up the water instead of depositing it several feet away from the house. When this happens, water spills directly onto the yard, causing erosion of your soil and increasing pressure on the basement or foundation. If standing water remains in your basement or crawlspace, you might experience mold or other damage. It can also fall behind the gutters, causing fascia boards to rot. During cold weather, water overflow can freeze and cause foundation cracks or back up onto the roof, causing ice dams and eventual roof damage.
You can prevent this with regular gutter cleaning. How often you need it depends on numerous factors, including the region where you live and the number and type of trees near your home. In most cases, experts say you should clean your gutters twice a year — once in spring and the next time late in fall, once all the leaves have fallen. Gutter cleaners get very busy in the fall, so it’s a good idea to get on the schedule as early as possible.
Gutter cleaning costs between $115 and $225. Most jobs take an hour or two. The exact price will vary based on the size of your home and the number of stories the cleaners have to reach. If your gutters haven’t been cleaned out in a while and require extra time to clear out the debris, the job might also cost more. In most cases, downspouts won’t require much if any cleaning, but in cases where debris has clogged the downspout, expect to pay between $50 and $100 more.
Installing gutter guards means you may not have to hire gutter cleaners as often. However, when that job does take place, you might be charged extra because of the additional time they must take to remove and reinstall the guards.
It’s possible to clean gutters yourself, but if you do so, make sure you take all proper safety precautions, including wearing protective eyewear and work gloves and having a spotter to hold the ladder sturdy.
When hiring a pro, verify that your cleaner has liability and workers’ comp insurance, which protects you in the event of damage to your home or injury to a worker. This is always a good idea when hiring any home service, but it is particularly vital in work that involves risky activities like climbing ladders or going on the roof.
Here are five home projects to do in fall to avoid costly repairs in winter:
Autumn to-do list
Check your roof
The summer’s sun exposure — plus general wear and tear since the last time you had your roof checked — can cause roof and siding materials to warp, chip and more. Look for any cracks or other damage; it will be much easier to fix these issues now than in the midst of winter if it starts to leak or is otherwise damaged.
Sweep the chimney
If you plan to use the fireplace this fall and winter, make sure the chimney is clean and in good shape. (And make sure no squirrels or other critters have taken up residence inside!) A blockage in the chimney can cause a fire or other hazards and be an inconvenient mess. Get ahead of any smoke- or ash-related issues by giving the whole set-up a good cleaning.
Clean the gutters
Yes, fall will drop a ton of freshly fallen leaves into your gutters no matter what you do, but getting ahead of that can prevent water damage and other high-cost repairs. Take some time (or, better yet, have a handyman come by) to check your home’s gutters for dead leaves and other potential blockages. If there are any, have them cleared them out so water can properly drain.
Look at the weatherproofing
Doors and windows should be sealed against the elements with weather stripping and/or caulking. These protective materials keep nasty weather out and the heat in — cracked, chipping or otherwise damaged seals can cause much higher energy bills as you lose heat to the outdoors. Also check that doors and windows are properly attached to their frames, with no gaps or cracks.
Examine your floors
Summer’s heat and moisture (thanks, humidity) can cause signs of wear and tear in floors, especially if you have real hardwood flooring. Scratched, dull or damaged floors can be sanded down and refinished; more substantial damage, such as loose floorboards or deep scratches, may call for replacement boards.