How Do You Know If Your Gutters Need Cleaning?

By Nancy B
September 22, 2022

I was getting my home ready for Virginia's peak hurricane season when I noticed rainwater spilling over the top edge of my garage gutter. I don't know a ton about gutters but enough to know that rain should flow down and out of my gutters, not over them. Clearly, something was wrong. I also have a poorly placed tree that overhangs the same corner of my house and is constantly dropping flowers, twigs, and leaves from summer to the start of winter. It was time to call a professional. 



Signs your gutters need to be cleaned

Two tennis balls and a giant bouncy ball later, my gutter was back in business. While the tennis balls were easily removed from the gutter pipe, the gutter professional also found a giant bouncy ball lodged in the downspout along with leaves and other debris creating a massive clog. No wonder my gutters were overflowing! Thankfully, my college-age son is much more interested in girls than playing with tennis balls these days.

Signs your gutters need to be cleaned are:

  • Standing water, staining, or mildew growth
  • Signs of critters residing in your gutters
  • Vegetation growth around or in your gutter
  • Sagging gutters
Here at NNINS, our home insurance experts know gutters are your home's unsung heroes and are such a critical part of your home’s waterproofing. Any weather system in Virginia can bring in significant and extended rainfall, but Virginia hurricanes can certainly pack a damaging punch with massive amounts of rain. It's important to ensure your home gutters are always ready to handle whatever weather comes your way. 



The gutter system must do the mighty work of running massive amounts of water AWAY from the house. 

How do you check your gutters?

Our NNINS home insurance experts know gutters are the #1 most neglected and problematic issue they see in external home inspections, but they are simple to fix. Check three things to ensure your gutters are functional and will protect your home from water damage.

1. Ensure your gutter has all the necessary parts.  



If you’re missing any parts of your gutter system, a professional can repair or replace them. They will also ensure your gutters are at a slight angle towards the downspout, preventing water from sitting. The growth of moss or lichen in gutter pipes can indicate improperly pitching and stagnant water. Pooling water will also cause the gutter to sag over time making it even more ineffective.

2. Ensure your gutters are clear of any plant growth, leaves, and debris. 


3. Be sure to have downspout extensions. 

Your gutters connect to downspouts that take the water down to the ground. But don't stop there! Downspout water that drains too close to the foundation is an invitation to a wet or flooded basement and other costly water damage inside your home. It's essential to have extensions attached to your downspouts that will move the water away from the exterior walls of your house. Keep the pipes free from clogs as well. If your downspouts extend underground, it’s a good idea to determine where that water is going, especially if you’re not the first owner of the home.


How far should home downspout extensions go?

The length of your home's downspout extensions depends on the slope of your yard. You want to be sure the water is directed to flow away from your house without draining across your driveway or sidewalk. When temperatures drop during the winter months, this runoff will freeze, creating a dangerous and slippery hazard! 

How often should you have your gutters cleaned?

Have your gutter system cleaned and inspected at least every year or more if you have a lot of trees around your home. It's the perfect fall maintenance job to prepare your home for winter weather. When your gutters aren't clear, water can back up and lead to a leaky roof and ice dams during winter weather. In addition, a gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds. All that extra weight can damage your gutters and tear them away from the roof.

If you're the type to take on home projects yourself, it doesn't require more than a good ladder, gloves, and a hose.  There are all kinds of tricks and gizmos to help with the job if you do it routinely, but we recommend hiring a professional because of the dangers of using a ladder.

How much does it cost to have your clean gutters in Virginia?

It costs about $70 to $100 to clean an average of 200 feet of gutters on a one-story home. My two-story home in Stafford was $200 with about the 200 linear feet of gutter. The taller the house, the harder the work and the more assumed risk heading up those ladders.

So, what could be lurking in your gutters this fall? And how well are they protecting your home from Virginia's hurricane season and heavy rain? We’re bound to have plenty of nice autumn days for you or a licensed and insured gutter specialist to get yours in shape before winter. And so much better than a wet and moldy home or costly home water damage.