October 1, 2017

Prepare for gutter cleaning chore before the leaves begin to fall


Several weeks ago, this space was devoted to the annual winterization chores minus the biggie - gutter cleaning. We haven't reached the peak leaf fall yet, but it won't be long so it's prime time to begin some planning.

Industry expert Robert Lenney says, "at its best, gutter cleaning is a tedious task. At worst, it can be downright dangerous."  Lenney is the inventor and co-founder of Gutterglove Gutter Protection System.

2017 NETAR President

Here's a checklist for the annual chore if you opt to do it yourself:

Always let someone know when you are cleaning gutters.

Have a plan for how you will work around the power cable that drops from the power pole to the roof of your home. Stay clear of the line, but if you can see any insulation wear call a licensed electrical contractor to fix it.

Use a sturdy ladder, preferably with a shelf strong enough to hold a five-gallon bucket to collect gutter debris. Secure the bucket with a lanyard. It's best to use a four-legged step ladder for a single-story home and an extension ladder for a two-story home.

Wooden ladders are not recommended since they are often difficult to balance. Fiberglass ladders seem to be the sturdiest, but are the heaviest. An aluminum ladder is the second-choice option for strength and support.

Pilots do a flight check before taking off to ensure safety. You should do the same with your ladder. Inspect it for defects before climbing.  Set it up and lightly jump on the first rung a few times to make sure the ground is secure. A piece of half-inch plywood placed under the ladder legs will keep it level and steady. When climbing the ladder, use the "Three Point Rule." Have both legs and one hand firmly secure on the ladder while cleaning. 

 Clean the roof of any debris before getting to the gutter work. Rake all debris off the roof so the next rain won't wash it into a clean gutter, clogging it up again. If you have to walk on the roof, wear rubber soled shoes.

The primary tools need are a garden hose with a pistol-grip nozzle and a gutter scoop. The spray nozzle's pistol-grip trigger comes in handy since it can be hung over the front edge of the gutter while moving the ladder, or while using a gutter scoop.

 Spraying out the gutter works best when leaves and pine needles have already been removed. Spray toward the downspout (leader pipe) so the debris flow down the downspout. If the downspout is connected to an underground drain, the base needs to be disconnected so debris can be released at this point preventing a potential clog further down the system under your lawn or driveway.

Most hardware stores carry several types of gutter scoops. Stay away from metal tools because they can damage the bottom of the gutter and its seams.

 Gloves and protective eye wear should be worn for this job. Gloves protect your hands from debris ridden with bacteria and painful cuts.  Eye protection is a must because one never knows what might fly out of the downspout when cleaning gutters. It's not uncommon to find rats, birds, frogs, wasps and bees leaving at high speeds while a clog is being removed.

After all the gutters are cleaned out, run the water hose down the downspout at full pressure. If the water backs up, 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.

For more tips and advice on winterization or a variety of other topics tailored to help homeowners by the National Association of Realtors® visit the HouseLogic site at

Eric Kistner is the 2017 president of the Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors. The real estate education and trade group is the voice for real estate in the Tri-Cities and has over 1,250 local Realtor® members and almost 100 affiliates