- Posted by Hinged
- On October 25, 2017
The trees outside my window are changing colors and while I am enjoying the view of orange, gold and yellow leaves rustling in the wind, every single leaf that spins to the ground adds to my dread of clogged gutters. Depending on your home, keeping the gutters clean and functioning can be a major undertaking and one of the most important maintenance tasks. We’re surrounded by large trees and have a finished basement, so it certainly is at our house.
A recent city transplant asked me, “Why do we even have gutters? They’re such a pain, what do they do?”
The primary function of gutters is to collect and redirect water that is running off your roof. When we get a big rainstorm, the news stations shout about all the inches of rain that fell and it might only be three inches. This doesn’t seem like all that much, but bear with me for a little math. Just for example let’s figure that one half of your roof is 20 by 50 feet. This is 1,000 square feet. In a three inch storm, 250 cubic feet of water will land on your roof. The two inch by three inch leader drainpipe that the gutter funnels the water into is only six square inches or 0.042 square feet. This means that every foot of pipe holds only 0.042 cubic feet of water. The 250 cubic feet of water hitting the roof during the storm will fill almost 6,000 feet of pipe.
Now picture a pipe 6,000 feet or over a mile long. Fill the mile of pipe with water and then drain it out into the ground right outside your basement. The pressure this creates in the soil outside your foundation is tremendous and yes, if we know the height of your roof we can calculate it, but trust me in force per square inch it is up there.
Even if you didn’t follow the math, hopefully the image of a mile long, pipe dumping water into the ground right outside your home helps you see how important it is to have good gutters and a good drainage system. You can also see how horrendous it is when a storm like Harvey dumps over 48 inches of rain over parts of the South.
If your gutters and drainage are well designed, they can still fail if they become clogged with leaves and debris. For gutters that drain onto splash blocks and rely on your yard being pitched away from your house, there is still a need to, at least once a year after the leaves have fallen, clean them unless you want to see plants growing up your roof. If you have a subsurface drainage system, it is critical that you have the gutters cleaned before the leaves can be washed into it.
If you like home science experiments or have young kids who like to play with water, you can do a simple test this fall to see how a few leaves can clog up even a well designed drainage system. Put a dozen leaves from your yard in your kitchen sink. Fill the sink with water, let it sit until the leaves are saturated, and then lift up on the drain to let the water run out. My guess is that the drain will clog pretty quickly. For even more fun, pull the leaves out, put in say nine leaves and repeat. Keep dropping the amount of leaves until you learn how few it takes to clog the sink. Once you have cleaned up and your kids are looking for something else to do, send them outside to count how many leaves fall onto a square foot of lawn. Besides training future scientists, you will quickly see the potential for leaves to clog your drainage system and why it is so important to keep your gutters clean.
There are a couple of methods for cleaning gutters. The simplest and easiest is to go on Hinged.com and schedule their cleaning with one of our vetted professionals. Depending on the type and steepness of your roof, the gutters can be cleaned either from below using ladders or from above by walking around on your roof. A lot of companies, especially the landscapers who tackle this work in the fall, utilize leaf blowers when working from above. This works great as long as they are following OSHA regulations and using proper fall protection equipment.
My own house is easily done from below with an extension ladder. Over the years, I have invested in a bunch of products that are supposed to make the job easier like special scoops and hooked hose attachments. Mostly they don’t fit in my gutters or work better at getting me soaking wet than cleaning the gutters. At the end of the day I have found that the best tool is a gloved hand. It is a messy job, but now with Hinged at least I can easily schedule to get it done by vetted professionals with the click of a button and go back to enjoying the fall view.