Stay safe when cleaning gutters

Come the fall, when trees start to shed their leaves and winds pick up in advance of winter, gutters can easily become clogged with all sorts of debris. When clogged gutters are not cleaned out, a host of potentially costly issues can result, making gutter cleaning an essential autumn chore no homeowner should ignore.

Fully functioning gutters direct water away from the structure of a home and into nearby drainage systems. When clogged, gutters cannot direct that water away, and the result is often costly water damage to the home’s foundation.

Water that is not directed away may find its way into the basement of a home, causing issues with flooding and mold. But clogged gutters also prevent water from leaving a roof, possibly leading to costly roof repairs and damage to the roof that can put a home’s inhabitants in danger.

Clogged gutters also make a welcome respite for unwelcome pests, including rodents and insects. In the warmer months, clogged gutters may make an inviting home to mosquitoes and other pesky insects, while rodents may seek the warmth of clogged gutters when temperatures dip to near or below freezing.

Cleaning gutters is not that complicated, and many homeowners can clear their gutters of debris in a typical weekend afternoon. But the ease of cleaning gutters should not overshadow the safety risks homeowners take when climbing a ladder to clear out their gutters. The following are a few safety tips for homeowners to keep in mind when cleaning their gutters.

* Wear appropriate clothing. Loose-fitting clothing should not be worn when cleaning gutters. Such attire is a tripping hazard and can easily compromise your balance by catching on the gutter or ladder as you reach to remove debris. Wear clothing that does not hang off of you and choose pants that do not fall below your sneakers. Pants that might be a little long in the leg can catch under your feet as you climb the ladder, momentarily costing you your balance and possibly leading to a fall. When choosing footwear, avoid old sneakers or work boots without much traction, opting instead for footwear that easily grips each rung of the ladder.

* Don’t forget safety gear. Many people forget to wear safety gear when cleaning their gutters. Such forgetfulness increases your risk of injury. When cleaning gutters, always remember to wear work gloves, which can protect your hands as you dig into gutters. Should you reach into a gutter without gloves on and grab something sharp, not only will you be cut but also you may be so startled that you lose your balance and fall off the ladder. In addition to work gloves, wear a dust mask and safety goggles when cleaning gutters to prevent debris from getting into your mouth and eyes.

* Work with a partner. Cleaning gutters alone is a recipe for potentially devastating injury. Even if you are not afraid of heights, scaling a ladder is not something to take lightly. Ladders can be shaky, especially on brisk autumn afternoons when the wind kicks up. Working with a partner when cleaning gutters ensures someone is below you to hold the ladder steady in case of a stiff wind or if your jostling unintentionally shakes the ladder. Working with a partner also means someone is there to seek help should you fall off the ladder or suffer another type of injury that requires medical attention.

* Use a trowel instead of your hands. Digging into the gutter with your hands, even if those hands are covered by gloves, is an unnecessary risk that can leave you susceptible to injury. When cleaning the gutters, dig out the debris with a trowel.

* Dump debris below into a large garbage can. When cleaning the gutter, do not carry a bucket with you to the top of the ladder. Carrying something as you climb up a ladder only increases your risk of injury. In addition, a bucket full of debris placed at the top of a ladder may tip over and compromise your balance. When dumping the debris you dig out with your trowel, dump it into a large garbage bin below. If you miss the bin every now and again, you can always sweep up after the job is completed.

Few homeowners look forward to cleaning their gutters. But such a task is necessary to prevent water and roof damage to your home. When cleaning the gutters, remember to place safety at the top of your priority list.

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