2007-05-03 / News

Gutter smarts will save work

By Roger Marshall

I figured it was time to clean the gutter when the rain flowed right over the edge onto the deck below. The blockage was caused by a small oak tree that had actually sprouted new leaves as it tipped the gutter away from the soffit. Cleaning the gutters entailed walking on the roof digging out handfuls of leaves and twigs, blasting the residues away with a garden hose and making sure that the gutter won't clog up again. Gutter cleaning is not something most people do until rainwater starts to flow over the edge.

With all the rain we've been getting lately, it is essential that gutters and downspouts are clean and they allow water to flow well away from your home's foundation. This means that your gutter should be inspected to ensure that it is clean. There are several ways to clean your gutters. I climb on the roof and peer over the edge, but for some people that may be too dangerous. You need to put a ladder up against the house wall or soffit and climb the ladder. Most leaves and debris seem to congregate at the downspout or at any bend in the gutter or piping, so check those areas first. Then look for areas where the gutter sags or has been warped by snow or heavy rain loads. Check the fastenings holding the gutter in place. If they are worn or corroded they may need to be replaced.

Another way to clean your gutter is to use a garden hose. Simply blast any debris out of the gutter with the hose. You might cause a block farther down the gutter so start as far away from the downspout as possible and work toward it. You can also buy a hose extension that looks like an upside-down umbrella handle to direct water into your gutter without having to climb a high ladder. It's called a gutter cleaner wand and is available from Amazon.com. If you decide to use one of these units, you might want to keep an umbrella handy or wear foul weather gear. Some water usually comes out of the gutter.

If your gutter is clogged with leaves and debris a tool called the Gutter Sense cleaning tool can be purchased for $19.95. This tool has two miniature hands on the end of a pole that can reach up to two stories to scoop out leaves. (www.guttersense. com)

There are several other ways to ensure that your gutters are clean. You can place a Gutter Topper (www.guttertopper.com) or Gutter Helmet (www.gutterhelmetprotects. com) over your gutter to allow water to flow into the gutter and keep leaves out. These devices are flat gutter covers with a beaded edge that works by covering most of the gutter, and allowing a narrow slot for water to flow into the gutter. However, they are not precisely aligned so heavy rain storms can cause water to flow right over the gutter cover and defeat the purpose of the gutter. Of course, if you buy a Gutter Helmet, you may be able to get Arlene Violet to come and clean your gutters before it is installed.

Yet another tool is the gutter brush. This is rather like a long bottle brush that sits in the gutter. In theory, leaves will sit on top of the gutter brush in a rain storm while water flows through it. When the leaves dry out they simply blow off. For more information, go to www. gutterbrush.com. Similarly, Rainflow is a fiber-like mesh shaped to fit in your gutter that allows water to flow through but keeps leaves on the surface. This product is available from Jamestown Hardware on Narragansett Avenue.

With the gutter clean, the next step is to ensure the downspout is clean and directs water away from your foundation. I like to put a mesh leaf stopper at the top of the downspout, but I have found that this is the most common place for the gutter to get blocked. However, it is a lot easier to clean around this mesh protector than it is to dismantle the downspout and clean inside.

Finally, make sure that water is directed well away from your house's foundation. I lead downspouts into 3-inch diameter plastic piping and toward the driveway where water can flow harmlessly away. Except, that is, near the greenhouse. Here I shortened the downspout and directed the water into a 55-gallon rain barrel. One hard five-minute shower is enough to fill the rain barrel and the water can be used to water plants.

Return to top