If you've always thought about gutter cleaning as a seasonal job to be put off until the next season, it might be time to think again. Gutters protect the roof by keeping it dry, and they protect the foundation by carrying water away from the house. They also help eliminate breeding places for mold and pests.
Here are seven ways to tell if ignoring your gutters could be damaging your home.
1. The birds are having pool parties up there.
A properly designed gutter system should never contain water. Birds that seem to be bathing or hunting insects in the gutter are a sign that rain water is not draining properly.
2. The morning glories have covered the gutters and are colonizing the roof.
The delicate tendrils vines put out have only one job: to find an opening and force their way in. They can even work their way under the shingles and through the roof membrane.
3. The ants are marching one by one, two by two, and three by three — up the downspouts.
Carpenter ants are attracted to rotting or damaged wood. Clogged gutters keep damp leaves and other material in contact with the fascia board and roof edge. This can lead to peeling paint, rot, and entry points for insects.
4. There are enough saplings growing in the gutters to get your roof declared a national park.
Seeds in can sprout in gutter debris, adding weight and further blocking drainage. This can force water up against the edge of the roof, or even pull the gutter system away from the house.
5. You went out to get the paper, and a rat stuck its head over the edge of the gutter and told you to keep the noise down because its kids are sleeping.
Leaf litter can form piles that are deep enough to provide rodents with dry nesting sites in gutters. If rain destroys the nest, rats and mice will look for a new home — possibly inside the roof itself.
6. There's a new water feature — in the living room.
A roof system uses waterproof membranes, shingles, and flashing to keep moisture out of the house. If anything disrupts this protection, water will find its way into the eaves. This often shows up as a ceiling leak inside the house.
7. Scientists want to take core samples from your gutters to study long term climate change.
Not all gutter debris is made up of leaves and twigs. Strong winds blow in dust, grit, and even litter from the streets. If the rain can't wash everything into the downspouts, layers of soil build up.