Safety Tips for Cleaning Your Gutters

Cleaning the gutters is a chore no one wants to do but it’s important in preparation for the winter season. Removing leaves and other debris from the gutters can help improve water flow, lessen the risk it will be diverted to your foundation and decrease potential ice dams.

Putting off this activity can lead to foundational damage, structural issues, rot, basement flooding and may be the cause of mildew and mold throughout your home. However, from using a ladder to exposure to power lines overhead, multiple safety hazards exist.

As you prepare to complete this task, keep the following factors in mind.

Removing Debris

If there are leaves on your rooftop that have yet to travel to your gutters, use a roof rake or power washer to divert them and other debris directly to the gutters. This ultimately gives you a clean start upon completing this task, can reduce water damming risks and ensure your HVAC system operates efficiently.

Avoid standing directly on your roof. This task should be completed from the ground or done safely from a ladder with a spotter. 

Wear Appropriate PPE

Cleaning out gutters presents multiple exposure risks, including pest waste or encountering a colony of insects below the leaves. Also, even when using a ladder, slip risks remain a concern. To keep yourself safe:

  • Wear eye protection to anticipate flying particles and insects.
  • Put on puncture-resistant gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges, debris and bacteria exposure.
  • Make sure your footwear has textured, slip-resistant rubber soles for improved traction.

Understand Ladder Safety

While ladders get you closer to the gutters, they come with multiple fall risks. To anticipate:

  • Check the ladder’s strength and stability before you start cleaning. It should be able to support you, your equipment and any debris you collect. For this reason, metal and fiberglass are also preferred to wood.
  • Go over the ladder’s structure for broken rungs and tighten any loose fasteners.
  • For cleaning gutters located a floor above the ground, select a four-legged ladder over a two-legged option for stability. Avoid three-legged orchard ladders, as they can easily tip over. In all cases, lock the extension-hinge arms.
  • Make sure that once you’re positioned on the ladder, you don’t have to stretch or reach to clean the gutters, which increases fall risks and can tire you out sooner.
  • Never stand directly on top of the ladder or even the next-highest rung, as you’re more likely to lose your balance and fall.

Cleaning the Gutters

To make your project more efficient:

  • Unclog the downspouts first: You may need to disconnect this component and clean it from the bottom to remove any clogs.
  • Scoop out debris: Do most of the dirty work with a scooping tool. To prevent scratches and rusting, avoid scraping the scoop along the gutter’s bottom or sides. Take a bucket with you to hold onto debris, rather than throwing it on the ground.
  • Spray the gutters: Use an adjustable pistol-style spray nozzle with your hose to wash out remaining debris from the gutters and through the downspout. Avoid using a pressure washer, as this can damage adjacent shingles.

Power Line Safety

Look where you’re standing and moving as you clean debris from the gutters. Also, know where the electrical cable connects to the roof. If you spot damage, get the cable repaired before you start your project. The same applies to rain; because water is a conductor, delay the task to a day with drier conditions.

Clogged gutters are considered a sign of negligence, particularly when dealing with a damaged roof, foundation or mold problem. Before the winter season arrives, get your property ready for colder conditions and snow by reviewing your homeowner’s policy. If you have any questions, contact a HUB/Ion Insurance agent today!