The futile business of cleaning gutters.

As long as people insist on not installing gutter-guard systems on their homes, the gutters will insist on regular maintenance—and even then will still require some maintenance.

So what does “regular maintenance” look like?  Certainly not like the following picture.

The amount of maintenance necessary will depend on lots of factors.  The types of vegetation present that will fill the gutters, how long it takes for this to happen and seasonal loading for some kinds of vegetation around the home—and of course kids and dogs.

Kids and Dogs?

It is amazing the kinds of stuff I find on roofs and in gutters related to either being tossed by kids or from things being tossed for dogs to chase.  Hopefully nobody really expected the dog to get up on the roof.  I was actually surprised in the picture above that the ball apparently did not float out of the way.

While some dams might be constructed of bricks they should not be used to dam up gutters.

In some cases cleaning might be required every month—for some homes once a year might be enough.  I know that if I had to clean mine every month I would be thinking really hard about installing a gutter guard system.

As you can see in the following pictures it does not take very much debris to completely dam up a gutter.

Overflowing gutters defeats the purpose of the gutters—which is to collect it, send it down the downspouts where it can be directed away from the foundation (either above ground or below ground).

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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  1. Hi Charlie,
    Thanks very much for the time you took in helping me
    with the ?’s about back feeding two breakers to work as
    a ‘Mains’ disconnect. “Electricity, it has no respect for
    ignorance.” As much as I thought my ideas would work,
    it is not worth doing if not done right. Thanks for setting
    me straight on that concept.

  2. What kind of gutter guard works well here in the Pacific NW? I have one that has a fine nylon screen on top as well as the usual plastic grid, but it gets clogged on top. Do the foam gutter inserts work? What about the kind where there is a solid cover and the water goes over a lip into the gutter? I tried a sample but it too got clogged by leaves and fir needles.

    There just doesn’t seem to be any good solution. On one short run of gutter I’ve left the cover off altogether because it makes the gutter easier to clean out to not have to repeatedly remove the cover.

    The trees around are legacies from former house owners and are way beyond trimming to prevent leaf and needle drop on the roof. There’s a kind of gutter substitute that doesn’t collect water but splatters it off an arrangement of fins. Someone told me that would not work in the Pacific NW. True?

    • Charles Buell says:

      I could make a fortune Daniela if I could come up with a recommendation that was fool proof. Unfortunately there simply is NO idea type and most will work adequately if conditions are correct. However, there can be types of vegetation that will defy the best intentions of them all. Taken all that into account, in my experience of looking at lots of them, the roll-edge type are best with the foam inserts perhaps mostly adequate as well. In the rainy areas of the NW there is the problem of moss and growth on the top of the filter type covers. All this means is that whatever type you use cleaning as the type demands will be necessary. Most, if not all, are better than nothing at all.

  3. Kevin Meyer says:

    Timely article Charlie, with Fall here and leaves leaving the trees.What is your experience with gutter guards?I’ve seen both the screens you can buy and lay in the gutters and I’ve seen the type of gutters where the guard is build in-the gutter and gutter guard are all one piece.We enjoy your articles!Kevin MeyerEverReady Home InspectionsHouston TX 281-687-5430

    • Charles Buell says:

      I personally like the roll edge type—however there can be localized conditions that may indicate other types might be more appropriate. None will eliminate maintenance altogether.

  4. I’m in need of some new gutters and my current opinion is I just need to settle to the fact there will be gutter cleaning required. Given this mindset, it makes sense to me to select gutters which are easier to clean. I’m considering half round gutters with under brackets instead of the K-style cutters. It seems cleaning will be easier if there are no obstructions in the way when cleaning. I have one of those little cutter cleaning scoops and it seems like it would work better with the half round gutters. I know they are more expensive, but if it makes for a quicker job in the November, then I’m okay with it. What are your thoughts on the half round gutters?

  5. Take a look at the standard gutters and downpipe used in Australia and New Zealand. These rarely clog up or need cleaning – they are wide, and have big diameter round downpipes, and where the downpipe connects is typically recessed so things will naturally want to fall down into them.

    The stuff I’ve seen here, and on my own house is a joke, its narrow (makes it hard to clean out), the downpipe connections have edges (pine needles live to collect and build up), the downpipes are square/rectangle (wtf?) and the bends have edges in them and are just the right size for catching pinecones I’ve found.

    Whomever designs or chooses the guttering in the PNW could easily improve this. At some point I’ll probably get the gutters replaced on my house, hopefully can find something better which isn’t inherently designed to clog up and be hard to clean out 🙂

    • Hi, Weasel —

      I’d like to see some pictures of the down under gutters and downpipes. Do you have any photos, or any suggestions how to find them? Maybe a brand name search? I tried an image search on Google for roof gutters Australia, then New Zealand, but didn’t find quite what you’re describing.

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