Removing debris from gutters prevents expensive water damage

Trina Ortega
Special to the Post Independent
Fall is one the most important times of the year to clean out gutters, making sure melting snow can flow freely during the winter.
Trina Ortega

When I was a child growing up in Denver, I loved to run divert the rainwater pouring out of the downspout of my parents’ house during a thunderstorm. Little did I know, making little runnels that carried water back toward the abode could cause expensive water damage to the structure. Now, as a homeowner, I fret over when water leaks from my gutters in the wrong spots and no longer find merriment when water from the downspout drains back toward my house.

To help prevent water damage to your siding, flashing and foundation, make sure your gutters are capturing and draining rain and snowmelt properly. Mike Riley, owner of Rocky Mountain Gutters in Glenwood Springs, recommends homeowners take the time to inspect, clean and repair their gutters in late summer/fall, long before the snow arrives. Troubleshooting and mending become much more challenging when snow and ice builds up.

Riley recommends the follow basics to prevent problems that can turn out to be hard on the wallet:

1. Carefully sweep or clear the roof of debris. “The debris sitting on the roof can eventually get pushed down into the gutters and clog up gutters,” Riley says.

2. Remove leaves, twigs and debris from the gutter. “If they have tall trees around their gutters, they’re for sure going to need to be cleaned out every fall and a lot of times in the spring,” he said. Riley recommends clearing out the debris by hand, instead of flushing out with water from a garden hose, which can make a mess and clog the downspouts, especially at the elbows where it’s difficult to unclog.

3. Flush out downspouts to make sure they are clear, as critters will sometimes make nests in them.

4. Look for areas of damage, such as cracked or bent sections, or any part of the gutter that looks wider than other areas, which means the gutter sustained ice damage from a past winter and probably needs new support hangers inside.

5. Realign any crooked or dipped sections so water doesn’t pool up and cause more damage.

6. Check heat tapes at the end of the downspouts to ensure they’re working properly. Turn them on in the morning when it’s cooler or wait until fall. Walk around the entire house, touching the end of the heat tape to check for warmth. “That way they know if their cable’s working before it gets too busy and snow starts to come,” Riley says. “They’ll be ahead of the game. It’s very difficult to fix heat tapes once they’re frozen inside the gutter.”

As adult homeowners, we no longer find ourselves playing in the water of the downspout. Instead, we play a different “game” — one of keeping our gutters in good shape and clear of leaves so the rainwater can drain away from our house. By doing so, however, we’ll have more time and money come winter, to play on our skis.

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