Put gutter maintenance at the top of your fall to-do list

By: Gloria Young Home & Garden
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The first rain of fall gives thirsty plants and trees a needed soaking. But it can also be an “aha” moment for homeowners if roof gutters need repairs or are filled with leaves and debris. While it’s raining is a good time to take a walk around the house to inspect gutters, advises Robert Lenney, CEO of Gutterglove, Inc. in Rocklin. “If they see any water overflowing, they need to clean out (the gutters,” he said Monday. “My first recommendation is the most popular tool — a gutter scoop,” he said. “They are yellow or orange in color. It is a handy little scoop that you can grasp with your hand. It pushes inside the gutter and pushes out leaves and sediment that you can put onto the ground or into a bucket.” Or, if there’s only an inch or so of debris, a hose with a spray attachment will do the job. Lenney’s company makes and sells gutter guards that he invented. Since he started the business as a gutter cleaning company in 1996, he has obtained three patents and has eight more pending. Lenney’s basic invention is a stainless steel micromesh screen with more than 2,000 holes per square inch that he says keeps everything out of the gutter. “Our screens make it so you don’t have to clean out the gutters ever again,” he said. “That’s why we offer a 25-year warranty.” His latest invention is the easy-on gutter guard. “It uses double-sided adhesive stick-on tape. It’s the same kind of adhesive used on the side of trucks and cars to hold logos. I put that on the front of the gutter guard. You peel off the tape and it’s there for good. It’s never coming off.” The advantage is the ease of installation. “It is what homeowners want,” he said. Lenney has signed on with Costco to sell Easy-On gutter guards on the store’s website. Also in the works is a completely new gutter protection system he plans to unveil in about three months. “It’s a different style. I’m really excited about it,” he said. And down the road, he may offer a gutter art option. It’s an innovation created by New Tech Machinery. “They (planned to release it) after the Metalcon Trade Show in Illinois (in early October),” he said in an email. “I inquired about it myself because I think this is pretty unique. Their feedback with other gutter contractors so far has been excellent.” He describes it as unique and on the cutting edge for gutters. “Instead of looking up at a flat gutter, it has designs embossed on the metal,” he said. “You have to buy their machine and the special art template.” Lenney estimates his company has cleaned out more than 6 million feet of gutter. “Cleaning out gutters is pretty easy as long as you know what you are doing,” he said in a press release. “Every time I hear of someone getting hurt from cleaning their gutters it makes me cringe because it could most likely have been avoided had they followed proper cleaning procedures.” He advises checking gutters and cleaning them out twice a year. The most important part of the job is taking steps to ensure safety while doing the cleaning and making sure the gutters aren’t damaged. Fall is the busiest time of year at Byers Roofing Systems, which has been installing roofs and Byers Leafguard gutter systems in the foothills since 1987. “It’s the American way,” owner Ray Byers said. “We wait until the first rain and then all of the sudden, we need to get rain gutters or a roof.” His advice is to be proactive in taking care of home maintenance. “(It’s) looking to try to get whatever work we need to get done around our home to prepare for the winter,” he said. “It’s best to have that done in spring or summer if possible. Although in the fall is when most of us think of it, including me.” Gutters should never be a deferred maintenance issue because leaking and overflowing problems can add up to costly damage over time. “What happens is that roofs and gutters are one of those things that are out of sight and out of mind,”?he said. “When we go home we aren’t necessarily looking up. ... When you see a waterfall going over the gutter, it’s already getting the wood wet, but you don’t notice it. It is happening over a period of time and that’s what causes dry rot. The damage can be occurring and you’re not even knowing it.” Byers’ Leafguard gutter systems include a guarantee that lasts for as long as the homeowner owns the home, he said. “Because of the way they are put together, you don’t have to clean them out,” he said. (If there is a problem) you give us a call and we take care it instead of you getting on the ladder. It completely takes you off the ladder. ...If the gutters clog up or have any issues, we go back out after you’ve purchased the system.” ----------- Gtter cleaning tips Following are basic tips provided by Robert Lenney for gutter cleaning: Ladder safety: Always let someone know you will be using a ladder to work on your roof or gutters. Use a safe and sturdy ladder, preferably with a small shelf strong enough to hold a five-gallon bucket to collect gutter debris. Make sure to secure the bucket with a lanyard. Use a four-legged step ladder for a single-story home, and an extension ladder for a two-story home. Fiberglass ladders seem to be the sturdiest, but are also the heaviest. An aluminum ladder is a second-choice option for strength and support. Inspect the ladder for defects, dents or loose parts before climbing. If your ladder is fastened together with screws and bolts, make sure all parts are tightened. When opening up a step ladder, make sure the extension-hinge arms are fully extended and locked in place. Garden hose: Use a garden hose with a pistol-grip trigger spray nozzle. This type of spray nozzle allows you to adjust the water pressure with the use of just one hand. This style of spray nozzle comes with a handy pistol-grip trigger, allowing it to be easily hung over the front edge of the gutter while moving the ladder, or while using a gutter scoop. Gutter scoop: Scooping out the leafy debris seems to be the best overall method for cleaning out the gutter. An excellent tool for this job is the bright orange plastic “Gutter Getter” scoop, which can be purchased at most hardware stores. This tool is unique because the front scooping edge is very thin and it forms itself to the bottom of the gutter trough, making it easy to scoop out even the toughest of debris in any size gutter system. Stay away from using a metal scooping tool because the bottom of the gutter and seams can be damaged and scratched. Scraping the bottom of a steel gutter can introduce areas to rust, and if the bottom of the gutter is already rusting, the rusting process could speed up. Wear gloves: Gloves can help protect hands against dirty, rotting leaf debris that often contains bird, pigeon and squirrel droppings that are ridden with bacteria. Gloves can also prevent painful cuts from the torn metal shards of an old, ragged gutter. Cotton gloves can soak up dirty water that exposes skin to bacteria. Leather gloves are not as maneuverable and tend to shrivel up when they dry after cleaning. Rubber gloves can get poked or torn by metal shards in the gutter. Thick, suede glove material is recommended because it is superior to cotton, thin leather or rubber gloves. Protective eye wear: Eye protection is a must. People have experienced rats, birds, frogs, wasps and bees leaving gutters high speeds once work begins to remove a clog. Rake off roof: Rake all debris off the roof first. Otherwise, the next rain will wash all the debris down into the clean gutter, clogging it up again. Also, debris left on the roof can lead to water damming up in valleys or around the chimney, which can cause erosion and roof leaks over time. Rubber shoes: If walking on the roof is necessary to perform gutter cleaning, it is good to use rubber soled shoes. Rubber soles tend to adhere best and prevent slipping and falls. Roof tops tend to be moist in the morning, so it is best to walk on the roof after the sun is well up in the sky and has dried up all the moisture. Downspouts unclogged: Make sure downspouts (leader pipe) are clear. After all the gutters are cleaned out, run the water hose down the downspout at full pressure. If the water backs up out of the top, a clog is present. Normally, it can be unclogged by tapping on the side of the downspout. But if that doesn’t work, the downspout and back need to be removed, and it should be flushed from the bottom. If a clog is present, and the downspout is connected to an underground drain, it is best to disconnect the bottom of the downspout from the underground drain. Otherwise, the clog may move to the underground drain. Power line hazard: When cleaning gutters around a power line cable that drops from the power pole to the roof of a home, conduct a visual inspection of the electrical cable where it connects to the roof. This is to ensure that the protective wire insulation hasn’t rubbed off through years of wear-and-tear by weather and nearby trees. If the cable appears to have damage, do not attempt to repair it. Call a licensed professional electrical contractor to fix it. If it’s raining and there is an electrical wire problem, do not attempt to clean out the gutters until the wires are fixed. Water is a dangerous conductor of electricity. Whether it’s raining or not, it would be a good idea to have the electrical wiring repaired before cleaning out your gutters. Gutter Guards: Using a quality gutter guard can eliminate the need for cleaning out gutters. Consider carefully the manufacturer’s claims before purchasing a gutter protection system that keeps out leaves and pine needles, because many promises are made that can’t be delivered. Lenney manufacturers the Gutterglove Gutterguard, which are manufactured in the U.S., more information can be found at Lenney and his staff have found an amazing collection of items while cleaning gutters, including men’s underwear, diapers, socks, pigeon droppings, golf balls, tennis balls, syringes with sharps, dead animals, aluminum cans, children’s toys, live adult rats with babies in the nest, small and large frogs, wasp and bee nests, snakes in areas like Florida, books, newspapers, nails, and tile pieces. These are in addition, of course, to the usual leaves, pine needles, seed pods and sand grit.