Gutters. When they work — they’re out of site, out of mind. It’s only when there’s a swimming hole by the foundation that suddenly … oh, yeah, they’re kind of important. Gutters do more than one might think. They protect the house, yard, and prevent expensive repairs. Here’s how to make showing your gutters some love surprisingly painless.

What are gutters for anyway?

Gutters are designed to collect rainwater from the roof and channel it away from the house’s siding, foundation, roof, and windows. That way, it keeps all that moisture from accumulating and causing damage. 

What can happen if my gutters don’t work properly?

When gutters become clogged with debris, dirt, leaves, twigs and more, rain water’ll start to overflow. It collects on the roof and spills down the side of the house. This can cause serious damage to everything from the roof to the foundation and landscape. Clogged gutters can also attract pests, like rodents and mosquitoes.

In addition, when gutters become too heavy from material build-up, the excess weight can cause them to pull away from your house, which can create further damage.

How can I keep my gutters functioning properly?

The key is to clean your gutters regularly. A general rule is twice a year: once in the spring and once in the fall. If you have a lot of trees in your yard, you might clean them 4 times a year, since more trees = more fallen leaves. Additionally, make sure the downspouts are carrying the water away from your foundation. 

What is the best way to clean gutters?

Leery about heights? Unsure if your ladder is in good condition? We got you. Gutter maintenance can be dangerous work, so it’s smart to call someone in to help. In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that 500,000 people fall off ladders each year, and about 300 die from their injuries.

But if you’re comfortable with heights and have a sturdy ladder, it’s relatively to do. First put on gloves and scoop out the loose debris. Then use a hose at high pressure to get every last particle out. You can use a leaf blower to clear the gunk, but be sure to wear goggles.

Be sure to check for damage. That includes making sure the rivets are firmly attached to the house, and that there are no holes or cracked caulking in the gutters. If so, either make the repairs yourself or consider replacing the gutters, particularly if they’re becoming rusty.

How can I keep my gutters maintained?

In addition to regular cleaning, you can install gutter guards and leaf catchers. This’ll help keep the larger debris out. You’ll still need to clean them occasionally, though, as finer particles can find their way in. So make an annual inspection part of your regular maintenance schedule. And it’s a good idea to install a “splash block,” which helps redirect water and prevent standing water from damaging your home’s foundation.

While you’re in spring maintenance mode, make sure your home’s covered. Get a homeowners quote from Esurance to see how we’re making insurance simple, transparent, and affordable

DIY hacks | Home and garden


about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.