As the East Coast closes in on spring, we’ve finally begun to experience some (sometimes unseasonably) mild weather. April showers are headed our way post haste, so now is the time to tackle one of any homeowner’s least favorite tasks: assessing the havoc fall and winter wreaked on your gutters, and remedying the situation before heavy rains tax your gutters even further. For the next two weeks, we’re taking on this tough task by providing you with some basics and some gutter maintenance hacks, too.

Why is gutter maintenance so important? Well, when your gutters are clogged, they cannot effectively drain water away from your home. This is a recipe for water pooling around the foundation of your home, putting basements and crawl spaces at risk for water damage. Your siding and roof can also suffer if your gutters provide poor water drainage.  And as Donna Boyla Schwartz at BobVila.com explains, “The problems need to be fixed as soon as possible because damage ramps up fast—as the gutter starts to sag, it can cause more water to run over, which in turn leads to more and faster damage.” So, there’s no time to waste. Even with spring still a few weeks away, there are things you can do today to begin determining the shape your gutters are in.


Gutter Maintenance Game Plan

Even before warmer weather is here to stay, you can get outside on the next rainy day and start making some observations that will help you get a sense of how your gutters are doing. Schwartz’s article offers this practice insight: “A simple way to check on a gutter’s performance is to wait for a rainy day and look to see if water is emptying from the downspouts. If water isn’t flowing freely from the bottom of a downspout, or if you notice water overflowing the edges of the gutter, there is debris clogging the gutters or downspouts or both.” Particularly soggy grass around the foundation of your home can also cue you into areas where overflow may be a problem. And if you notice that there is some overflow happening, one idea is to snap a few quick photos with your phone so you remember the trouble spots once it’s warm enough to get outside and get going on the gutter maintenance.

Once you’ve assessed what you can from the ground, you’ll have to get up on a ladder to get started cleaning your gutters. Wait until the weather has been fair and debris has had some time to dry out, as this will make for easier removal. And exercise caution! Here are some outdoor ladder safety reminders.

Lowes.com offers a helpful step-by-step once you’re out on a dry day and up on your ladder:

Step 1: Begin cleaning the gutter near a downspout.

Step 2: Remove the large debris (leaves, twigs, etc.) with a trowel and dump in a bucket.

Step 3: To clean out finer materials, flush the gutter lengths with a hose starting at the end opposite the downspout. Alternatively, you can use a gutter-cleaning attachment on a hose. If the water doesn’t drain, recheck the downspout strainer and clean as necessary.”

While the task may be considerably larger at the start of this season, repeating these three steps once or twice this spring and again in the fall will ensure your gutters stay in good shape and things don’t get too out of control.

Check back next week for more tips on tackling this chore and some advice for when things don’t go quite as planned!