This Is What Happens If You Don’t Clean Out Your Gutters

It’s not something that homeowners realize right away, but gutters are a vital part of any house, and because of that, they have to be cleaned regularly. Homeowners may find this task hard and tedious, but skipping it can result in severe damage. You may be surprised to know what happens if you don’t clean out our gutters.

Issues resulting from dirty gutters include foundation cracks, concrete or wood damage, roof leaks, pest infestation, basement floods, and driveway or landscape damage. Some of those are hard to repair and very expensive.

I spent almost two days cleaning the gutters of our former Pasadena, California house last year. We had several mature trees around the house and the gutters where full of leaves and dirt. I was exhausted after the task and don’t even think I did a good job.

Not surprisingly, we also have gutters in our new house in Lewes. I need to motivate myself to tackle this job or have someone else do it.

The best way to get motivated is by going over what happens if you don’t clean them.

What Are Gutters Used for?

gutter with cat

The history of gutters dates back to 3000 BC. You would have thought that we had improved them by now so that we don’t need to clean them.

But that’s not the case. We still need to clean gutters.

So what is the primary purpose of gutters anyhow?  

Gutters are one of the main components of the water drainage system of a house. Uncontrolled dripping may cause damage, and the rain gutter is there to collect the water and safely direct the water to a location that can handle larger water quantities. Gutters are made of various, mostly metal materials, although PVC may also be used.

Because they are exposed, located on the edges of your house, they get dirty and full of leaves, branches, and dirt that block the water flow. When the water flow is blocked, uncontrolled leaking and dripping occur in places that cannot withstand such a large amount of water.

And this is when trouble begins.

Consequences of Dirty Gutters

This Is What Happens If You Don't Clean Out Your Gutters - Gutters with many leaves

Foundation Cracks

Leaking water will cause the soil to soften, and the weight applied to the foundation will increase. Materials used for the foundation may also keep some moisture, and eventually, it will crack. This is expensive damage.

Concrete or Wood Damage

Walls may absorb water through the inherently porous concrete. Rain will drain away and eventually evaporate, but the heavy flow from the clogged gutter may deliver more water than the concrete can handle. Same as the foundation, it will crack if the problem is not fixed in time.

Wood, no matter how well built and protected, will absorb moisture. After prolonged and unnecessary water exposure, it will crack, attract mold, or rot. If you have wooden walls, this may also be considered structural damage. Rotten wood keeps the moisture, which can spread to other areas around it. Ignoring this problem can be expensive in the long run.

Roof Leaks

A leaking roof may cause all kinds of problems. Water may damage walls, floors, electrical installations, and appliances. It is costly to repair, and moisture in hidden areas that you may fail to notice is a breeding ground for potentially dangerous mold.

Pest Infestation

Little mouse

Clogged gutters keep water and moisture long after the rain stopped. Damp and well-hidden places, like gutters full of leaves and branches, may become a home for rodents and insects. From mosquitoes to cockroaches, they will all be a nightmare to eliminate.

These critters may carry diseases and can find a way into the house. Regular maintenance of gutters prevents this problem.

Basement Floods

Water that leaks and collects next to your basement walls will sooner or later find a way in. Basement flooding, if not detected in time, may cause severe structural damage and health problems from mold, which will eventually appear. A sump pump will help but will not fix the problem.

Driveway or Landscape Damage

Driveways made of concrete will suffer from cracks. Those who like to have a well-decorated garden full of plans will be surprised how much excessive water flow may destroy their hard work.

Water will wash out the topsoil part and small plants, the roots will get exposed, and plants will eventually die. Decorative gravel may also be affected, as it will get washed away. You will end up having ditches instead of a beautiful garden.

Sidewalk Damage

Besides the damage done to the sidewalk itself, it can become slippery and dangerous to walk on, especially for children or older adults.

These problems may affect almost any house, no matter how well built or how old. Things may get even worse if you live in a cold area where temperatures drop below freezing. Ice can form, and when the water turns into ice, it expands. All of those small cracks will become much larger, and the damage will be even worse.

When Should You to Clean Your Gutters?

You could inspect your gutters periodically and see if they need cleaning. You can also set a schedule that fits your house needs (my preferred approach) unless you see something obvious that requires immediate attention.

I thought I could get away with cleaning my gutters once a year. Apparently I was wrong.

While it depends on how many trees and the type of trees you have, most experts recommend cleaning your gutters at least twice a year– in the fall and spring.

Unfortunately, you may have to clean them more often, depending on your location and the number and type of trees you have.

Those living in a forest should check the gutter monthly, especially before heavy rains to ensure safe water drainage. If you live in a city, have no trees nearby, and the weather is generally nice, you may clean them twice a year.

How Much Does it Cost Clean the Gutters?

Although it rains a lot in Lewes, Delaware, we don’t have mature trees around our house yet, so I think cleaning my gutters twice a year will do the job.

The question is. Do I want to do it myself or should I hire someone to do it? I’ll be honest; I’m not looking forward to this job twice a year, but how much would it cost to outsource this job?

Conceptually cleaning the gutters is an easy job, but I know it can be tedious and dangerous in practice. Assuming you have the right size ladder, standing on a large ladder, especially when you have a two-story house, can be quite challenging for some people, including me.

So let’s see how much it would cost to get it done while I am drinking a beer on my porch.

Below are 2020 estimates from Homeadvisor and Thumbtack. Based on those estimates, it looks like I can get my gutters cleaned twice a year for about $300—worth considering. I’ll decide after the summer.

SourcePrice Range
Lewes, Delaware
Lewes, Delaware
National$111 – $166$137$157$130 – $150$140$125

Closing Thoughts

Homeowners frequently overlook gutters as we rarely see them in action. Cleaning the gutters regularly ensures the safety of structural house parts, as well as the surrounding landscape.

I don’t know about you, but I am convinced now that I need to get my gutters cleaned twice a year. But I still need to think If I want to do it myself.

I have added the following item to my house calendar:

  • Clean the gutters: twice a year

Given all this information, one may wonder how it is that some homes have no gutters.

Video Summary

I have created a quick video to highlight what could happen if you don’t clean your gutters. If you like this video, consider subscribing to the House Notebook Youtube Channel.

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