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Safely clear gutters of grime

Published: February 22, 2017 12:00 AM

Homeowners have many responsibilities synonymous with certain times of the year. For example, pool maintenance must be a priority in the summertime, but such a chore is unnecessary in the heart of winter.

Cleaning gutters is a household chore that many homeowners associate with both spring and autumn. Cleaning gutters prevents water damage on the roof while protecting your home's siding and foundation. In addition, cleaning gutters in the fall gives homeowners a chance to ensure they are firmly secured to the house, an important precaution when potentially harsh winter weather is just around the corner.

Unlike many household chores, cleaning gutters can be quite dangerous, as it often requires homeowners to climb up and down on ladders or spend ample time on the roof. As a result, safety should reign supreme when cleaning gutters, and homeowners should take the following precautions before gutting their gutters of grime.

Don't try to be a hero. If you are afraid of heights, then it's perfectly alright to hire a professional to clean your gutters. Men and women with a fear of heights cannot predict how they will react when climbing a ladder, so play it safe and hire a professional if the thought of climbing up and down a ladder frightens you.

Inspect the stability of your ladder. Ladders play a key role when cleaning gutters of leaves, dirt, and grime, so homeowners should inspect their ladders before they get to work. An unbalanced ladder may not be reliable and should be replaced. You will be moving and swaying somewhat while cleaning the gutters, so you will need a secure ladder that does not teeter back and forth each time you reach for the gutter.

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Keep the ladder on stable ground, and ask a friend or family member to hold it. The ladder should always be planted on a flat and secure surface before you climb up to clean the gutter. And much like you might have a spotter when lifting weights, have a friend or family member hold the ladder as you climb up to ensure the ladder remains stable.

Move the ladder frequently. It can be tempting to reach as far as possible when you're on the ladder, as you can save time by covering more ground on each trip up the ladder. But overextending yourself is a considerable safety risk, so move the ladder frequently, even if the job is taking more time than you had expected.

Wear tight clothing. Loose clothing when cleaning gutters can easily get stuck on shutters, tree branches or other items when climbing up or down the ladder. If you aren't paying attention, clothing that gets snagged can throw off your balance when you start to move, increasing your risk of falling.

Wear protective gloves. Anyone who has cleaned gutters in the past can attest that you never know what might have settled in gutters since the last time they were cleaned. Wear a thick pair of gloves that won't puncture when caught on a gutter, or sharp twig or branch. You won't want any holes in the gloves, as holes may leave you susceptible to any bacteria in organic items that might have settled in the materials in your gutter. Gutters also may have sharp edges that can leave you susceptible to cuts if you aren't wearing gloves. In addition, gloves keep your hands warm, which will come in handy as you clear the gutters of materials that are often wet. When choosing gloves, be sure to choose ones that give you some grip so you can firmly grasp the ladder as you climb up and down.


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