Raising a ladder to dig mud and leaves from your gutters never sounds like a fun job. But if you’re a homeowner, it’s worth the hassle. That’s because cleaning your gutters can help prevent anything from bees’ nests to a bad foundation.
This year, resist the urge to put off the chore. Need some motivation? Learn about these common problems caused by clogged gutters.
Why is Gutter Cleaning Important?
Your gutters and downspouts are designed to divert the flow of water away from your home. It’s an important job because even a little bit of water can cause a lot of damage.
As water flows off the roof of your home it collects in the gutters, which are sloped toward the downspouts. When your gutters are clean, rainwater quickly flows through the downspout into your home’s drainage system.
But over time, debris like twigs and leaves can build up in your gutters, causing a blockage. And when the flow of water is stopped, clogged gutters can cause all sorts of problems.
What Could Happen if You Don't Clean Your Gutters?
In times of heavy rainfall, you want to make sure the rain has a safe path off your roof. A properly functioning gutter will carry that water through a downspout and away from your home. But a clogged gutter does the opposite – allowing water to spill over the sides and pour down your walls. Pooling water around your foundation can cause erosion which weakens the walls, leading to foundation cracks and settling.
Not only can foundation issues create major structural problems for your home, but this type of damage is not covered under most homeowners insurance policies.
When your gutters are clogged, the water they collect has no place to go. Instead, it fills your gutters to the brim. With each gallon of water weighing about 8 pounds, all that extra weight can bend your gutters or tear them away from the roof.
With the average cost of gutter replacement ranging between $1,000 to $7,000, keeping your gutters clean can help prevent this often-avoidable maintenance expense.
Wall and ceiling damage
Clogged gutters can also cause water leaks on the inside of your home. If your gutters are full, it’s possible for the water to overflow on the back side of the gutter. When this happens, water can rot the wooden fascia boards your gutters are mounted to – or flow behind your home’s siding.
In either circumstance, moisture can enter your home. And when it does, you could find yourself replacing entire sections of wood, insulation and drywall.
Did you know clogged gutters can cause damage in the winter months, too? When the temperatures drop, the water in your clogged gutters can turn to ice – creating something called an ice dam. As a result, the water from snow melt has no place to go but under your shingles.
If left unattended an ice dam can cause leaks in your home, damage your gutters or both. To learn how to remove an ice dam, check out this blog post.
If your basement isn’t waterproofed, the water pouring down your foundation can lead to a damp basement. This is caused by water seeping through your basement’s porous walls and floor.
Wet basements can cause a lot of damage to the items stored there – resulting in harmful mold or mildew. So if your basement gets damp after a heavy rain, store your valuables elsewhere and consider installing a French drain to divert water away from your home.
Nobody likes mosquitos in their backyard. But pooling water in your gutters can be the perfect breeding ground for them. Damp mud and leaves can also be an inviting place for bees and wasps to build their nests.
Is Damage from Clogged Gutters Covered by Homeowners Insurance?
As a homeowner, you expect your house and everything in it – from the foundation to the roof – to be covered by your homeowners policy. Most policies, however, do not cover damage caused by normal wear and tear or neglect. If your home suffers water damage because you did not clean your gutters, you’ll most likely have to pay for the repairs out of pocket.
Not all water damage is caused by clogged gutters. Insurance coverage is available for other types of water damage, including protection against floods and the backup of sewers and drains. At Erie Insurance, we offer Extended Water coverage, which helps protect against:
- Basements and other rooms that flood during a storm or various flooding events1
- Water that backs up from sewers or drains
- Repair or replacement costs for both your home and personal property2
- Additional living costs associated with temporarily relocating while your home is being restored3
- Flood avoidance reimbursement (up to $10,000) to help proactively protect your home before flooding occurs4
How Can I Tell if My Gutters Are Clogged?
- Climb a ladder: The simplest way to check your gutters is by performing a quick visual inspection. Just be sure to choose the right type of ladder and climb it safely. If you see any debris buildup in your gutters, it’s time to clean them.
- Sagging gutter: If your gutters are sagging or look bowed in the middle, it’s a sign that they’re carrying too much weight in the form of excess water.
- Siding stains: Look at your siding to see if there are stains from running water. This can be a sign that your gutters are overflowing during heavy rain.
- Plant growth: When seeds mix with organic material in your gutters, plants can actually begin to sprout and grow. If your home has planted its own gutter garden, you’re well overdue for a cleaning.
What to Know Before You Clean Your Gutters
Problems caused by clogged or broken gutters are expensive to fix but easy to prevent. (Just clear the debris!) But before you get out the ladder, check out these gutter cleaning tips:
- Ladder safety 101. Your ladder should be sturdy, safe and large enough for the job. Never stand on the top three rungs of a ladder or put yourself in an unsafe position. Be sure to have someone nearby in case of an emergency. Check out this blog post for more ladder safety tips.
- Use the proper tools. There are more tools involved than the ladder and your hands. Thick suede gloves, protective eyewear and long sleeves add an extra layer of protection against bacteria, cuts and pests. A plastic scooping tool and bucket can help you clean out and dispose of debris. You can also use a garden hose to wash away mud and unclog downspouts.
- Know when to hire a pro. If the job is too physically demanding or you’d prefer to play it safe and hassle-free, contact a professional to clean your gutters. The cost will vary depending on the size of your home.
Home Insurance That's Designed for Living
Being a homeowner has many rewards, but it also involves its share of demand. While you’re looking out for your place, we’re looking out for you. At Erie Insurance, we’re available 24/7 to help answer questions, solve problems and provide remedies. See what separates us from the competition with a personalized home insurance quote.
ERIE® insurance products and services are provided by one or more of the following insurers: Erie Insurance Exchange, Erie Insurance Company, Erie Insurance Property & Casualty Company, Flagship City Insurance Company and Erie Family Life Insurance Company (home offices: Erie, Pennsylvania) or Erie Insurance Company of New York (home office: Rochester, New York). The companies within the Erie Insurance Group are not licensed to operate in all states. Refer to the company licensure and states of operation information.
The insurance products and rates, if applicable, described in this blog are in effect as of July 2022 and may be changed at any time.
Insurance products are subject to terms, conditions and exclusions not described in this blog. The policy contains the specific details of the coverages, terms, conditions and exclusions.
The insurance products and services described in this blog are not offered in all states. ERIE life insurance and annuity products are not available in New York. ERIE Medicare supplement products are not available in the District of Columbia or New York. ERIE long term care products are not available in the District of Columbia and New York.
Eligibility will be determined at the time of application based upon applicable underwriting guidelines and rules in effect at that time.
Your ERIE agent can offer you practical guidance and answer questions you may have before you buy.