How Do You Know If Your Gutters Need Cleaning?

Before Virginia's peak hurricane season this fall, I noticed rainwater spilling over the edge of my garage gutter. I don't know a ton but enough 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, my gutter specialist 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 balls these days.

Here are other signs your gutters need to be cleaned:

  • 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, we know gutters are your home's unsung heroes and are such a critical part of your home’s water-proofing. 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 make sure 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 simple to fix. Check 3 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. Many DIYers make the mistake of hanging gutters completely level allowing water to sit. The growth of moss or lichen in gutter pipes can indicate they’re not properly pitched. And that remaining 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. 




How often should you have your gutters cleaned? Have your gutter system cleaned and inspected at least every year, sometimes twice a year if you have a lot of trees around your home. When your gutters aren't clear, the water they collect has no place to go. Instead, your gutters will overflow like mine and can 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 bend your gutters or 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.


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. Keep those 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 much does it cost to 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 even with about the same 200 linear feet of gutter. The professional is assuming more risk heading up those tall 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.