Clean your gutters before rains set in

Thursday April 11 2019

Dirty gutters and roof trusses in need of maintenance. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


With the weatherman promising that the long rains will be with us any time from now, Maxwell Otieno, a landscape artist, is a busy man. He has been moving around Kiambu County helping homeowners to clear debris off their gutters. He admits that his is a messy and unpleasant job, but someone has to do it.

“Leaves, tree branches, stones, feathers and other material often gather on roofs and gutters. It is my job to convince homeowners that they need to have this unwanted junk removed,” he says. Otieno proposes that homeowners should clear their gutters twice a year, before the long rains in March and shorter rains in September. For a house that is located near trees, this frequency can be upped to three times a year.


Harvest clean water

Many Kenyan households, Otieno observes, depend on harvested rainwater to supplement piped water sources for household use. As such, households have installed gutters to direct water from their roofs into storage tanks. The elements found on an unclean roof, Otieno opines, can render the harvested water unfit for consumption.

Otieno has observed that decomposing leaves usually become mouldy and attract a host of fungi and bacteria to facilitate the decomposition process. The resulting muck, often stinky, usually seeps into water storage tanks.


If you put off cleaning your gutters for long, the resulting clutter may provide food for and attract insects such as crickets and termites, lizards, birds and mice. Mr Otieno even claims that he once pulled a snake out from a drain pipe. When these creatures form an ecosystem along your gutters, it will only be a matter of time before they invade your home as well.


Mind the wooden board

Clutter that accumulates along your gutters and downspouts also compromise their efficiency in that they reduce the amount of water collected. The flow of the water is blocked by the resultant clogging, making it overflow before getting to the storage tank. When the water overflows in this manner, Otieno has observed, it ends up falling on the wooden board installed behind gutters on the lower end of the roof. This board will then rot and disintegrate.


Maxwell Otieno, a landscape artist. PHOTO | COURTESY

Clean to protect your walls

When water falls from blocked gutters down to the base of your house, Mr Otieno warns that such water may fall onto your walls and peel off your paint. At the ground, it can seep into your house’s foundation and this can compromise the building’s integrity of sustained for a long time.

“Neglecting to clean your gutters will cost you in the long run in that you will have to replace them sooner. As water soaks into the dead leaves, it becomes heavier thus causing the gutter to sag. The retained water can also accelerate rusting in gutters that are made of metal,” The landscaper says. He estimates that gutters can last for up to twenty-five years, but the lifespan can be halved if they are not regularly maintained.

Otieno charges around Sh2,000 to clean debris off a medium-sized bungalow, with the price going higher for storied homes. He points out that the work, which can easily be finished in one afternoon, can be done by the homeowners themselves — as long one is not afraid of heights and getting dirty.


You can do it yourself

To begin, one needs protective wear. Otieno does his work in an overall, dust mask and rubber gloves. Tools for the job will include a trowel, a bucket, a ladder, a leaf blower and a hose.

When placing the ladder, ensure that it leans on the wall just below the roof and not on the gutters themselves. The latter can damage the gutters and cause the ladder to be unsteady.

Once at the top, pay extra attention to the mould. You can use liquid detergent to wash it off, as long as you have disconnected the spouts from the storage unit. Using your hand or the trowel, you can then proceed to scoop out the debris piled on along the gutters.

After you have removed the solid materials, flush out the gutters by running water from a hose along them. As the water trickles along, observe it for any leakages. If any holes are observed along the gutters, Otieno advises that you should use a marker pen to mark the spot, then wait for the gutters to dry. Later, you can use sealing glue, available from a local hardware store, to seal the holes.

Should water remain stagnant inside the gutters, it is a sign that they are not sloped correctly. To correct this, you can detach the hangers that hold the gutters onto the roof and reattach them again with the correct gradient.

If the drainpipes are also obstructed, this can be corrected by pushing out the blockage elements with a broomstick or other long rods.