10 Reasons to Mind Your Gutters Year-Round

Gutters, those unsung heroes of home exteriors, collect rainwater from the roof and divert it away from the house, thereby staving off water damage to the structure and landscaping. But as ongoing exposure to the elements can diminish your gutters' performance, it has long been recommended to clean gutters twice a year, once at the start of spring and again at the tail end of fall. It turns out, however, that twice a year may not be enough. Scroll through to find out why your gutters may need more attention than they're getting and to learn what you need to do to keep them performing at their peak.

  1. Gutters of a Certain Age

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    Old Gutters Repair

    Do you live in a historic house, or one that’s just plain old? If so, your roof is probably edged with old-style gutters made up of segments joined together at seams and attached to the fascia with screws. These seams and openings collect water that can’t easily escape, encouraging the growth of mold that can spread to the fascia and roof. To avoid compromising your home’s structural integrity—and your family’s health—inspect older gutters four to six times a year, and fill any small holes with gutter caulk.

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  2. Fast and Furious Flow

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    Water Flow Through Gutters

    If you live in a wetter-than-average climate or have a steeply pitched roof, you may find that your gutters can’t handle the volume or rate of water flow. In these situations, the excess runoff from the roof or the overly forceful flow of water from downspouts can damage nearby decking, patio areas, or the foundation, so consider inspecting your gutters quarterly or replacing smaller gutters with larger, higher-capacity equivalents.

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  3. Pesky Pines

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    Pine Needles in Gutters

    Do you have pine trees on your property? They may be called "evergreens," but pine trees drop needles all year-round. Clean those little clog-causers out quarterly with a leaf blower, wet-dry vacuum, gutter scoop, or power washer fitted with a fine-spray nozzle. Otherwise, dropped pine needles can collect in the gutter, slowing the normal flow of water and causing it to pool on the roof or overflow onto the fascia, where it can endanger not only the fascia, but the foundation, soil, and patio walkways as well.

    Related: Clean Your Gutters Now to Avoid Big Problems Later

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  4. The Dark Side of Spring

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    Pollen in Gutters

    Don't take a vacation from gutter-cleaning in the summer! Throughout spring, trees continue to deposit pollen, seedpods, and pollen tassels into your gutters, coating and eventually clogging them by summer, and aggravating allergies at the same time. To keep both clogs and seasonal sniffles in check, clean out gutters at least once in the summer to remove the remains of spring’s bloom.

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  5. Downhill Dilemma

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    Debris Blowing in Gutters

    Is your house located downhill from your neighbors? If so, you may have noticed that leaf litter piles up in your gutters at a faster-than-average pace. This usually happens when passing winds carry debris from nearby rooftops into your gutters. While you can’t control what the wind drags in, you can keep the gutters from clogging by cleaning them four times a year at minimum.

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  6. Altitude Agony

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    Ice Dams in Gutters

    No one wants to climb up a ladder in the dead of winter, but winter gutter inspection is a must for those living at higher elevations, who have to contend with an onslaught of ice and snow that can take a toll on gutters. The heavy load of precipitation on rooftops can cause nearby gutters to crack or detach from the house, while ice dams can lead to leaks in the ceiling as well as damage to the roof, gutters, or foundation.

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  7. Stormy Weather

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    Storm Damage in Gutters

    The sky may be clear after a heavy storm, but chances are your gutters aren’t! Rain, hail, or windstorms can crack gutters or send leaves, twigs, or longer branches from nearby trees into gutters. This debris can then decompose in the gutter, inviting an ant or termite infestation; slow or completely block the normal flow of water away from your home; or damage the downspouts. For these reasons, it is prudent to inspect your gutter after every heavy storm, clearing out debris and sealing any holes with gutter caulk.

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  8. Asphalt’s Fault

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    Asphalt in Gutters

    Heavy rain and ordinary wear and tear can, over time, cause the sand-like grit on the surface of asphalt roof shingles to slough off and wind up in your gutters. There, it can accumulate, trap leaves and small twigs, and eventually slow or stop the flow of water. If you have an asphalt roof, aim to clean gutters quarterly, and consider installing micro mesh or screen gutter guards to keep your gutters grit-free.

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  9. Overfed Beds

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    Downspout Rain from Gutters

    If you have garden beds in the vicinity of your gutter downspouts, it’s imperative that you regularly inspect both the plants within them and the gutters themselves. Excessive flow from the downspouts—or an overflow from the gutter—combined with your usual watering routine, may lead you to unintentionally overwater your plants and harm their health. Identifying and clearing a gutter clog early can protect not only your home, but your homegrown blooms as well.

    Related: All You Need to Know About Rain Gardens

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  10. Boggy Basement

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    Flooded Basement from Gutters

    Does your normally dry basement leak when it rains? Inspect your gutters and foundation immediately after a rainfall, as a neglected clog in the gutter or downspouts can cause water to pool along the foundation, saturating the soil, putting pressure on the foundation walls, and ultimately forming cracks and allowing water to seep into the basement. Clear debris from the gutters at the earliest sign of a basement leak to prevent the foundation from becoming saturated further. If the damage is severe, however, you may also need to repair the foundation.

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