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Maintaining Your Eaves and Downspouts – Now’s the Time!

When the weather is warm and there isn’t a rain cloud in sight, our thoughts don’t usually stray to potential water damage. But, as homeowners, we know that water – and resulting mould and rot – is the enemy of a structurally sound house. An easy rule to remember is…
July 22, 2019

Maintaining Your Eaves and Downspouts – Now’s the Time!

July 22, 2019

When the weather is warm and there isn’t a rain cloud in sight, our thoughts don’t usually stray to potential water damage. But, as homeowners, we know that water – and resulting mould and rot – is the enemy of a structurally sound house. An easy rule to remember is that water should always be flowing away from your house, rather than towards it. Eaves troughs and downspouts play a key role in making sure that happens.

Your eaves troughs (sometimes called “gutters”) are the channels that line the edge of your roof and collect rainwater, funneling it through the downspouts and depositing it as far away from your foundation as possible. A good rule of thumb is to have your downspouts drain away at least 3 feet from the edge of your house, depending on where your house sits relative to the property line.

To keep your eaves troughs and downspouts working properly and protecting your home during rainfalls, a little maintenance goes a long way. Keep worries at bay (and prevent those ugly water stains on your exterior walls) by following these easy summer home maintenance tips.

Keep an eye out for blockages

The next time you’re at home during a heavy downpour, grab your umbrella and take a walk around the perimeter of your house. If there’s a blockage, you’ll notice it if you see your eaves troughs overflowing at any point along your roofline. Leaves and other debris from trees can clog up the pathway and prevent rainwater from flowing naturally downslope. If you live in an area that is heavily treed, your eaves troughs and downspouts will likely require more maintenance than if you live in a newly constructed development where trees are young and still shorter than your roofline. If you’re not inclined to venture outside while it’s raining, those water stains on your exterior walls are also a good indicator of a likely blockage.

Water trickling down the side of your house can cause a considerable amount of damage to your walls and to your foundation below, especially if the water is able to seep through crevices near window frames and cracks in your foundation below the surface of your lawn. Another problem to consider? If your downspouts aren’t draining properly water can pool near your house, which serves as a perfect breeding ground for mosquitos.

Now’s the time to get the job done

Summer is an ideal time for eaves trough and downspout maintenance. By the time summer reaches us, the trees have had time to bloom and lose their seeds and you can take care of any build-up of leaves from the previous autumn. A great tip is to wait for dry weather to clean out your eaves – at least three to four days after the last rainfall so that debris is dry and lighter, making the entire job easier.

Ladder safety is crucial

It’s important to remember that if you’re at all uncomfortable climbing onto a ladder to clean out your eaves troughs, a number of professional home maintenance companies exist to get the job done for you. Safety should always be your number one priority with home maintenance. That said, inspecting and maintaining your eaves troughs means needing to use a ladder. Slips and falls are one of the most common causes of non-fatal major injuries, but effective solutions are often simple, affordable and easy to implement.

Before you begin, make sure there’s someone around to hold the ladder steady for you. Watch out for any cables or tree branches that might get in your way and carefully inspect your ladder before climbing it. All four feet of the ladder should be placed on firm ground with the legs locked. Finally, remember the three-point rule: you should have three points of contact with your ladder at all times. Keep both feet and at least one hand firmly on the ladder and avoid reaching too far on either side. Even with a spotter on the ground, it’s difficult to compensate for an overextended reach. Save yourself from injury and move your ladder instead.

Have your tools at the ready

Keep your hands free for holding onto the ladder and scooping out debris by attaching a garbage bag directly to your ladder with ties or a clamp. Use a smaller, kitchen-sized garbage bag for the job to avoiding the temptation to stuff the bag full and potentially pull your ladder off-balance. Use plastic tools or a rubber kitchen spatula to avoid damaging the inside of your eaves. Wear latex gloves or sturdy work gloves to protect against scrapes and grime and ensure your spotter has easy access to a garden hose to flush out the eaves after you’re finished.

Maintenance tips for the Do-It-Yourself-er

It’s important when you’re clearing out your eaves troughs to avoid pushing debris further into the downspout, so avoid thinking of them as a garbage chute. If your downspouts are clogged, try disconnecting them from your eaves troughs and using the pressure from a hose to dislodge any gunk that’s clogging it up. Turn the tap to full strength if need be. After you’ve removed everything you can reach from your eaves, use your garden hose one final time to ensure the water has a smooth, unobstructed path off your roof, through the downspout and away from your foundation. Take note if water is still pooling at any point along your eaves troughs – it might be a sign that your eaves need to be re-secured to your roof.

Final notes on summer home maintenance

Any vegetation interfering with the performance of the eaves troughs or the integrity of your roof’s structure should be trimmed back to allow your eaves troughs and downspouts to effectively drain water away from your home. The goal of regular home maintenance is to ensure your home remains a safe and healthy place for you and your family. Understanding the potential risks that exist outside your home and checking in on them regularly is a key step to smart homeownership.

For more Loss Prevention information and safety tips for your HomeFarm or Business, visit the Loss Prevention section of our website or