This article takes a deep dive into everything you ever wanted to know about gutter cleaning for residents and businesses in Melbourne. Drawing upon the vast experience from the local pioneers of this specialised service industry, it is hoped that this gutter cleaning and maintenance guide will answer questions we often get from friends and clients.
What Do We Mean by Gutter Cleaning?
Most buildings have rain gutters to give rainwater a way to drain from the roof and be carried away from the property. Over time, leaves, dirt and other unwanted debris builds up in the guttering attached to the roof of a building. The purpose of gutter cleaning is to make sure the roof guttering and any downspouts or downpipes and rainwater diverters are properly channeling rainwater to its proper destination without any complications.
Why Is Gutter Cleaning and Maintenance Important?
Roof gutters are not something most people think about before finding out (often too late) that it is something that needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later. Debris and leaf removal, keeping the guttering clean and clear, should be the priority when it comes to the roof maintenance of a property to preserve its market value as well as reduce overall maintenance costs over the long-term.
Problems that can result from poorly maintained gutters
A poorly maintained storm water drainage system can leave a property vulnerable to rainwater being trapped and overflowing onto the area below or finding its way into the structure of the building itself.
Rain & Storm Damage
If a particularly heavy downpour comes along, or a series of storms while your guttering is blocked or in poor condition, it might cause preventable flood damage. For many property owners, the sudden cost in repairs that result can be a difficult hit to take. The guttering itself can take rain and wind damage directly from storms, or if blocked they can be weakened by the weight and volume of the water. Overflow from rainfall into the surrounding property can end up saturating soil and affecting the below ground water table. This can also affect your surrounding neighbourhood with possibly serious consequences.
In summer, allowing the build-up of dry leaves, twigs and any other flammable clutter in gutters makes the property more prone to bushfires. Keeping all water drainage clear of blockages and flammable material should be part of any building’s roof maintenance plan, especially leading up to Melbourne’s bushfire season.
Disease, Vermin and Parasites
Stagnant pools of water can form resulting from poor drainage, attracting mosquitoes and other pests, even microbes that can carry harmful diseases. These can build-up quickly from recent rainfall without clean and well-maintained drainage. Because they are typically above our line-of-sight, stagnant water or water that is not flowing properly can escape our attention, unaware of the potential health risks accumulating from improper roof drainage. If you are using diverters to collect rainwater for drinking, you could be consuming dangerous pathogens if not treated correctly.
Long-Term Property Damage
If water gets into the building itself, there are many ways that damage can occur. With leaks forming, water can quickly weaken or destroy a building’s structure (even the foundations!), as well as fittings, furniture, electricals and anything else it contains. Where there is excess moisture, mould is sure to follow along with potential respiratory health problems.
How Often Should Roof Gutters be Cleaned?
At a minimum, a building should have its roof gutters cleaned at least twice a year. The optimum times of the year for a bi-annual clean and roof inspection is in late autumn and early spring. These times ensure that you get the most build-up to clear than other times. The timing also provides a great opportunity to prepare for winter and summer.
If the building has a lot of surrounding trees or is prone to wind picking things up and depositing them in the gutters, the cleaning frequency may need to increase. On commercial premises, it may be worth considering a quarterly roof and gutter inspection to get to understand how often the job is required.
While it’s a good idea to know how well your roof drainage is traveling, getting up on the roof with a ladder can be dangerous and should be avoided if possible. You might not have a camera-mounted drone around, but you’re more likely have a smartphone and a selfie stick. With careful handling, you could inspect and document the state of the gutters without risking injury.
A more traditional and low-tech way to check if your gutters are in good condition is to run the hose to the roof gutters and turn on the tap, then walk around the building to look for leaking or overflow.
How to Clean Roof Gutters: Several Methods Explained
Here we explain several of the methods that are possible to clean roof gutters. Most of these methods are not recommended, but each are being discussed on their merits, going through all the options when considering how to do a gutter cleaning job. The first 3 methods should raise alarm bells if a service provider uses them.
Method 1: Ladder Bucket and Hand-Trowel
This is probably the most difficult and dangerous way to clean gutters. Basically, it involves lifting a bucket and trowel up a stepladder, then scooping and scraping the debris inside the gutter into a bucket. Get down and move the ladder another arm’s length, scale the ladder again with your scooping tool and repeat. From a safety risk perspective, it simply shouldn’t be done this way. From a time-management standpoint, it makes no sense. At some point the bucket loses its meaning and you’ll find yourself tossing the gutter debris on the ground below instead.
Method 2: Using a Leaf Blower
Using a leaf blower to clean your gutters might seem like a good idea, but it really isn’t the best tool for the job. The heaviness makes them not good for taking on a roof. Most having pull-start motors makes them even more precarious to work at heights with. Even if your balance is well above average and can’t be knocked around by the force of the blower, it’ll make a bigger mess than necessary that will need to be picked up later. There may be an attachment that would allow you to use the leaf blower at ground level, but you’ll likely blow debris onto your roof tiles. Not all problems can be solved with a leaf blower, at least not this one. It simply isn’t the right tool for the job.
Method 3: High Pressure Water Hose
While using a high-pressure water system can be great to clean roof tiles, it isn’t recommended to use one to clean the gutters. Like the beloved leaf blower, this method leaves a of mess, only this mess is a lot wetter. In fact, it is better to have the gutters cleaned before using a pressure washing tool to clean roof tiles to make sure the cleaning water drains properly during the wash.
Method 4: Using Specialist Vacuum Equipment
For the triple benefit of time, safety and effectiveness, the best choice of tool is to use a specialised roof gutter vacuum cleaning tool. Using a powerful motored vacuum to pull the debris through an optimally designed nozzle, it can be easily bagged and disposed of or used as garden mulch. The hose unit needs to be lightweight, while the vacuum system needs to be powerful enough to effectively remove all debris, saving you the need to manually remove anything. A vacuum cleaning system for roof gutters usually lets you keep the motor on the ground while the vacuum suction nozzle is carried around to each section of gutter. Not having to carry heavy equipment on a roof decreases the risk of injury significantly.
Can We Talk You Out of Doing it Yourself?
Self-reliance is all well and good, but does it really make sense to use your time and risk your body to get the gutters cleaned? Without specialist tools and safety equipment, using a ladder for cleaning gutters is time-consuming and dangerous. Working at heights causes injury and death at an alarming rate in Victoria and is on the increase. Before taking it upon yourself to clean roof gutters with inappropriate tools and possibly getting hurt, consider contacting a professional service provider who is properly equipped and experienced with working on roofs. You’ll usually get a better result from the clean as well.
What Are Gutter Guards and Do They Save Money?
Gutter guards are covers that can be fixed onto roof guttering and are claimed to filter out debris, only allowing water to get into your gutters and downpipes. The idea is that you’ll save money on gutter cleaning by investing in these gutter covers. Those made of steel and coated to match you’re the style of the building’s guttering can get quite expensive, but many property owners have had them installed believing that it will pay for itself.
Unfortunately, gutter mesh or “gutter guards” can end up costing more money. The reason for this is that no matter how fine the filtration of the gutter mesh, debris will still build up in and on the gutters. Leaves will still collect there and decompose. Dirt and other objects will still get blown onto your roof and end up accumulating in the gutters, mesh or not.
They also make the job of clearing out the gutters and leaf removal a bit harder with the coverings having to be removed to get to the rest of the debris. The covering mesh might need to be cleaned as well, creating an additional task to the overall process. Making the process of gutter cleaning take longer often results in a paid gutter cleaner needing to charge more for the service.
Hire a Gutter Cleaning Specialist Instead of a Gardener or Tradie
A specialist is always a better choice to get a job done than a general practitioner. The same is true with building maintenance and in this specific case, roof gutter cleaning. As Melbourne’s pioneers of providing specialist gutter cleaning services to residential and commercial clients, PorterVac have developed processes and implemented technology to get the best results in the shortest time possible. Hiring your gardener or other non-roofing specialist puts them at unnecessary risk of injury for a less thorough job and possibly more expensive. PorterVac also takes before and after photos of each gutter clean as well as a free roof condition report.
We hope that you got some value from this guide. If you want a gutter cleaning specialist service provider in Melbourne to inspect your roof and clean the gutters, contact PorterVac today.