Roof cleaning: Don't 'leaf' it undone

Sentry Exteriors

 Q.  Fall is here, and I'm concerned about leaf build-up on my roof. How do I clean my gutters?

 A. It's important to clean your gutters in the fall when the leaves have all come down– but you really should be cleaning year-round to protect your roof and ensure proper drainage.

You can do it on your own, but be very careful with your ladders. There are lots of horror stories about do-it-yourselfers falling off the roof. To ensure safety, look for overhead power lines or other obstacles around the house. Make sure the ladder is secure by putting the ladder legs up, so the bottom of the ladder is driven into the ground. If you have a concrete sidewalk, make sure someone else is securing the ladder at the bottom.

There are different methods to clean your gutters. The most effective is to use a blower. Hardware stores offer extensions for blowers and hoses, so that you can clean from the ground. This option is only available for one-story houses– for two-story homes, you have to go up to the roof with blower or hose in hand. For cleaning from the ground, there are special hose attachments that are curved at the spout– the water sprays into the gutter and flushes the leaves out.

Next, many people forget about the drainage to the ground. If your gutters are connected into PVC drain tiles, be sure to check those areas as well. If they're backed up, water will not flow down through the spout. To clean, remove the top elbows and shake them out, because debris gets compacted. Then, reinstall the top elbows and check the water drainage. Without cleaning the tiles, cleaning the gutters is ineffective.

If you have copper or aluminum downspouts coming down the wall, put a water hose into the drain tile and make sure it's flowing out clearly. This ensures underground drain lines are not clogged up.

The alternative to the blower is to take your hand and scoop out the debris. During dry weather, this method isn't too bad, but it's quite a messy job with lots of moisture.

In today's maintenance-free society, many homeowners are purchasing gutter guards. The most popular is Leaf Solutions, which keeps out all debris, including shingle granules. You can buy gutter guards at any hardware store. Be sure to buy a really good guard, or you might as well just continue to clean out your gutters manually.

Richie Kahlich of Sentry Exteriors