Rain can take a toll on homes, and melting snow and ice cause their fair share of problems. Water running off a house can pool around the foundation, ultimately causing extensive damage. Gutters and downspouts direct that water away from places, so it doesn’t have a chance to cause basement and foundation damage and other problems. These days, most homes have gutters installed. Of course, having gutters in place means cleaning them regularly to remove debris and ensure they work correctly.
Protecting Yourself and Your Home
As you may already know, gutter cleaning is an essential aspect of homeownership. It’s not necessarily the most straightforward or exciting weekend chore, though. Many homeowners try to put it off for as long as possible.
Unfortunately, failing to remove all the leaves, pine needles, and other debris that build up in gutters over time can lead to numerous problems. For one, it can damage the gutters. The extra weight of wet leaves can eventually cause the gutters to pull away from the house. Additionally, clogged gutters can damage roofing and siding while gradually allowing runoff to destroy the foundation.
Keeping those gutters clean isn’t the safest job, either. According to a recent report, an estimated 500,000 people are injured in falls from ladders every year in the U.S. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of those falls aren’t work-related injuries. Many of them happen to people who are simply working around their houses. At least 150,000 are reported to sustain injuries falling off their roofs. As such, keeping safety in mind while cleaning your gutters is essential.
1.) Use Personal Protective Equipment
Some people might scoff at donning personal protective equipment while cleaning their home’s gutters. That’s a significant mistake; many people have learned so hard. More hazards could be waiting in a home’s gutters than many people realize. That’s why it’s best to gear up before taking on a task like this.
Thick, sturdy gloves with cuffs that cover the wrists are crucial when cleaning gutters. They’ll protect your hands against scrapes and cuts from the gutters and any unexpectedly sharp debris that might be hiding within them. Safety glasses are also a must. They’ll provide a safeguard against a range of eye injuries that can result from flying debris. Though some of them are minor, others can be serious and even result in loss of vision.
Boots are essential PPE to keep in mind when cleaning gutters, too. Though your feet may not need much protection while cleaning the gutters, the proper footwear will reduce the likelihood of falls. Never wear sandals, flip-flops, or slippers when cleaning the gutters. Sneakers with rubber soles are a better option. Boots with non-slip soles are highly recommended.
2.) Work from a Ladder
Quite a few homeowners believe that climbing onto the roof and cleaning the gutters from above may be safer and more efficient than using a ladder. That’s also an unfortunate mistake. With the right ladder type and other safety precautions, you’ll have a sturdy, vertical workspace. In contrast, working from the roof places you on a very slippery slope.
3.) Observe Ladder Safety
Although using a ladder is safer than climbing on the roof, ladders can undoubtedly be dangerous if they’re not used properly. Because of that, observing ladder safety is crucial. Inspect your ladder before using it to ensure it’s in good shape. If it’s damaged or rickety, get a new one.
If possible, don’t work alone. At the very least, have someone at the foot of the ladder holding it steady. If no one is available to help, tell someone you’ll be cleaning the gutters. That way, they can check in on you from time to time and assist if you fall.
Don’t try to cover too much ground from one spot. While on the ladder, don’t lean too far to the left or right in an attempt to reach more of the gutter. Only cover what you can safely reach without leaning. It’s best to climb down and move the ladder every couple of feet. That increases the amount of work, but it’s better than the alternative, increasing the risk of falling.
4.) Maintain Solid Contact
Staying safe while cleaning out the gutters also means maintaining consistent contact with sturdy objects around you. Keep both feet on the ladder rungs and one hand on either the ladder or the gutter. Don’t stand on one foot with the other stretched to the side to reach farther. Don’t use both hands simultaneously to rake debris out of the gutter faster.
That will leave only one hand free for cleaning and slow you down even more. Still, it’s the safest strategy. You can use a gutter scoop or garden hose to provide extra cleaning power. Be sure to exercise caution if you choose the garden hose. Spray slowly and carefully. Using the maximum spraying power of the hose could knock you off balance and send you tumbling off the ladder.
5.) Call the Professionals
That said, calling in the professionals to clean those gutters for you is the safest and most straightforward solution. Professionals have the right tools, equipment, and experience to clean gutters safely and effectively. Along the way, they’ll inspect the gutters to ensure they’re in good condition.
Keeping the Gutters Clean and Working Properly
Gutters are designed to protect homes. They can do their jobs effectively if they’re clean and in good repair. However, debris can quickly build up in gutters, making them less effective. Generally speaking, gutters should be cleaned at least twice per year. If you decide to do the job yourself, follow the safety tips mentioned here to protect yourself while working in your home.