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Mind Those Gutters

by Gabby Hyman
Repair-Home Columnist

Once the last of the leaves drop to the ground this autumn, it's the best time of year to tend to your gutters. Routine biannual gutter inspection and cleaning can spare your roof and your pocketbook. Consider it a regular home improvement project that maintains the value of your house. If your gutters are severely damaged, out of slope, or leaking badly, you may want to call in a contractor.

The first step is to take an elevated walk-around. Be sure your ladder is in sound working order; placed on a dry, level surface; and secured at the base. If the gutters are choked with dead leaves, clean them out before rushing hose water through the channels and out the downspout. Wear protective gloves and scoop out all debris by hand or with a plastic beach shovel.

Flushing Gutters and Downspouts

When the gutters are clear, use a hose with a pressure nozzle to flush the downspouts on all corners of the roof. Once they're clear, run water through all the gutters until they're completely free of dust and grit. Then step down the ladder and survey the entire gutter network from below, checking for leaks or breaks in the system.

Often gutters will clog, and the build-up of dead matter and water can create heavy pools in the channels, causing a length of the gutter to sag. Once the slope system is disrupted, the gutter continues to gather weight and eventually can separate and drop entirely--especially when the heavy rains come. If your gutters are out of slope, you should call in a contractor to either balance the line or replace sections that no longer work effectively.

Patching Up Leaky Gutters

Typically, gutters spring leaks where the material is under the greatest stress, at sections that are joined together or where they meet up with downspouts. You may find cracks or blisters that you can repair with gutter putty. Ordinary silicon sealant is not always the best solution because it won't adjust to the breathing or movement of the gutter.

Once you find the leak, clean it completely and scratch up the surface with sandpaper or a wire brush. Apply the gutter putty to the inside of the gutter. Be sure to spread it with a central channel that promotes natural flow though the gutter.

About the Author
Gabby Hyman has created online strategies and written content for Fortune 500 companies including eToys, GoTo.com, Siebel Systems, Microsoft Encarta, Avaya, and Nissan UK.