The Cincinnati Enquirer | 23 July 2009

Time for first of two gutter cleanings

BLUE ASH – Cliff Wicks leaves gutter cleaning to the professionals now.

The Blue Ash resident used to clean his own gutters, until ahout five years ago when a ladder accident during a cleaning left Wicks with a broken nose, bumps and bruises.

“I gave the ladder away and decided I would outsource it,” Wicks said with a laugh. “They know what they’re doing.”

Hiring a professional is sage advice, says Dave Molloy, owner of Cincinnati-based Molloy Roofing Company. According to a 2007 study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy, an average of 136,000 Americans end up in the emergency room each year due to ladder-related injuries.

Not only is hiring a professional safer, that person has the equipment to do the job right and the training to spot problems with roofs and gutters.

“If there’s a problem developing, it could be caught perhaps before a roof leak develops and turns into interior damage,” Molloy said.

Common problems are damage to the fascia, a leaky roof or basement, water damage to the interior and landscaping erosion.

According to a poll of Angie’s List members, 60 percent said they clean their gutters at least once a year, but 20 percent said they never have their gutters cleaned. Nearly 20 percent of those responding to the poll have had damage to their home as a result of ignoring gutters.

A gutter cleaning should include the removal of all debris from the roof, gutters and downspouts, checking for loose gutters and repairing any loose gutter spikes.

“Twice a year is kind of typical – after the seeds fall in the spring and after the leaves fall in the autumn,” Molloy said.

Protective barriers for gutters are becoming increasingly popular, but are not a replacement for regular cleanings.

“There must be 50 of them, and each one has its merits (but) it’s been our experience that there’s no such thing as one that requires zero maintenance,” Molloy said.

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a national provider of ratings in more than 425 categories of service.

Angie’s Advice

  • Have a helper: If you’re going to tackle the job yourself, get someone to stabilize the ladder and be on hand to help.
  • Ladder safety: Always use a ladder that is long enough for the task and wear shoes that have good traction. Avoid leaning your ladder on the gutters, as this can damage them.
  • Scoop it up: Put on some heavy-duty gloves or use a small gardening shovel to scoop out debris.
  • Get out the hose: After the debris is removed, use the hose to check that water is moving through your downspouts.
  • Clear obstructions: If the water fails to drain, use a plumbing snake or wet/dry vac to clear the clog from the bottom.
  • A final check: Once your gutters are clean, check to see that they are firmly attached to your home, and repair any loose spots you find.