So what’s the deal with gutters? Are they really a big deal or are they just something that builders tack on like the little charges on your phone bill to squeeze out a little extra money? Some parts of the country don’t even have gutters, so how important can it be to have them cleaned regularly? What happens if you don’t? To be honest, before I got into gutter cleaning, I’m not sure that I ever cleaned my own gutters since I didn’t know how important they were. The truth is that gutters are a big deal and having clean gutters on your property provides several services, both practical and aesthetic. 

Why Have Gutters?

Purpose:  Gutters serve a simple enough purpose. They line the roof of your property to ensure that water flows down the downspouts away from the foundation of your property. This prevents unsightly water pools and prevents erosion of your foundation. Without gutters, rainwater will erode your yard and soak the soil that secures the foundation of the property. In an area with as many earthquakes as we have, this can do long term damage to your property.

Protection: It can also protect the life of your roof, which is one of the largest capital expenditures that a property owner needs to plan for. If you have any kind of flat roof, you can end up with large pools of water ponding, gradually deteriorating your roof.

Even if you have a sloped roof, leaves can block the valleys of your roof, causing water to pool in the weakest parts of your roof. It’s important not only to clean your gutters, but blow off your roof as well. Please note that if you have tile roofs, it is crucial that you hire a gutter cleaner that is familiar with how to handle walking on tile roofs (and avoiding it where possible).

Why You Should Regularly Clean Gutters

Pest Control: Full gutters also make a very attractive home for pests, rodents, mold and honeycombs from bee infestations. Rodents and pests like dark, damp spaces to make their home and a full gutter with pooled water, mulched leaves and shade from the roof is the ideal place for them to set up shop. Ask your pest treatment company where they find most of their nests that need to be treated.

Destruction: The other value is aesthetics. Water flowing over the edge because of clogged gutters can lead to discoloration on the siding of your home, which can require pressure washing or repainting down the road. This can take years off of a paint job and create an unsightly stain along your building, which can translate into higher vacancy rates and a lower CAP rate overall.

Misguided flow can also cause damage at ground level, dislodging grass and landscaping, increasing your yard maintenance fees as well. Think about the damage that a hose left on overnight can do. Now think about the damage that same hose could do if there was one on every side of your property that was left on all night whenever it rained. That’s what you’re doing to your property by not maintaining your gutters.

What about Gutter Guards?

Gutter guards are plastic mesh coverings that prevent leaves from going into the gutters and then down into the downspouts. The mesh is supposed to allow rainwater to flow through the gutters as designed. Another alternative to these are downspout strainers that allow leaves into the gutter but prevents them from flowing down the downspout where most clogs end up. Both of these are frequently purchased by homeowners who then ask us if they still need to clean their gutters (the answer is yes!).

Gutter Guards and Downspout Strainers

Both of these items, gutter guards and downspout strainers, share the same flaws:

  • They encourage people not to clean their gutters at all, which can cause tens of thousands of dollars in foundation erosion and roof damage over the years.
  • They make gutter cleaning more difficult because it takes time to clear them out and do the work right, increasing the cost and reducing the effectiveness of the cleaning.
  • They are not foolproof.

While the theory is good, both strainers and gutter guards just move the jam from one place to another. Gutter guards will develop clogs on top of the mesh bypassing the gutters entirely, while strainers just move the clog from the middle of the downspout to the top of the strainer. Both ultimately do more harm than good.

 How Often Should I Clean My Gutters?

So, as we can see, gutter cleaning is necessary. This just leaves the question of when to have your gutters cleaned. In a perfect world, you should have your gutters cleaned twice a year. While this may seem like overkill, the long term cost savings of clear gutters far outweigh the cost of the extra cleaning.

With a two cleaning schedule, you should aim to clean your gutters in late Spring and early Fall (late March and early October). If you absolutely cannot be persuaded to do two cleanings, we recommend having it done in between October and December to clean during the heaviest rains. It’s important to schedule it before you see the first flood coming over the gutters. I recommend simply booking it at the same time each year and making it part of your annual maintenance calendar.

Rob Buffington is the owner of EastWest Building Services in San Jose. EastWest has been cleaning gutters in the Bay Area for twenty-nine years. They clean gutters on single family homes, all the way up to thousand unit complexes. Rob also has worked in Property Management for seven years, including personally owning several apartment buildings throughout the state and has a unique perspective as a property manager, vendor and property owner.