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It’s a winter tradition: husband on the roof in the rain, pulling leaves out of the gutters and trying not to fall to his death. So far, he’s been successful. I hate to make him do it, but, as Tory Marino at Elite Window Washing (619-634-9580, ewindowwashing.com) says, “If you don’t get your gutters cleaned, then the debris from leaves and pine needles and the debris from your roof will build up. The gutters will start to sag from the weight. Eventually, you’ll have to replace them. And if the downspout gets clogged so badly that it can’t be flushed out, it too will have to be replaced.”

Marino knows, because Elite doesn’t do just windows. “A 2000-square-foot home might have 130 lineal feet of gutter and might take us around five hours to clean at $3 to $5 per lineal foot, depending on how bad the gutters are. If there is over an inch of sediment in the gutter, we’ll take a gutter scoop — it’s like a hard-plastic hand shovel — and remove the sediment manually. If there’s only a half-inch or less of sediment, we’ll use a pressure washer to flush the sediment through the drains. If the downspout is clogged, I have a tool that looks like an umbrella handle that I put on my pressure wand. I feed it in from the ground up, and the pressurized water flushes things out pretty well. Then we start cleaning the gutters by hand, using rags and a cleaning solution. It whitens up the exteriors of the gutter — and it makes dark colors brighten up, too.”

For future protection, Elite can install “a product called Rainflow [$10–$15 per lineal foot]. It’s not a gutter guard or gutter screen…something that sits on top and changes the look of your house; it’s inserted into the gutter. It looks like fiberglass-mesh insulation, and it strains out debris. Leaves and pine needles will stay on top of the mesh during the rain, but after the rain stops and they dry out, the wind should blow them off. It comes with a lifetime guarantee, and if you have it in, your gutter should need only minor maintenance every five or six years. All I would need to do is take the Rainflow out at your gutter’s high spot and send pressurized water toward the downspout to flush out any dirt. A homeowner could even do it with a hose.”

That is, if I wanted to send my homeowner up there. I have some scary-hilarious visions of Patrick teetering like a circus clown, 20 feet up. “We follow OSHA ladder-safety guidelines,” Marino assured me. “When the ladder is fully extended, it should rest at a 45-degree angle from the house. And there’s the three-point rule: you must have three points of contact with the ladder at all times. Both feet and one hand.”

Like Marino, Jim Hamilton at Any & All Rain Gutter Cleaners (619-444-0041, rainguttercleaners.com) is a stickler for safety. “We work from the roof, and if a roof has any kind of pitch, we’ll use a harness. And there’s always a ground guy and a roof guy in communication.” Unlike Marino, Hamilton doesn’t put anything into (or on top of) his gutters. “We used to install gutter screens but found that the leaves lay on top of the screen and biodegraded to form a sort of lid. When the water hit it, it skipped right over the gutter and onto the ground. And when the leaves finish decomposing, they drop through the screen as sediment.…

“We’ve been doing this for 16 years,” continued Hamilton. “When we started, we scooped gutters by hand or we used blowers, but we found it didn’t work for downspouts and roof drains. So, we’ve devised a water-jetting system; when we’re through, you could eat out of these gutters. We use a high-volume, low-pressure treatment. The machines on our trucks push eight gallons per minute — most washers only get two — and the higher volume carries everything downstream.” But not to the downspout. “You don’t want to send debris down the downspout. Some of them go underground, and you risk getting impacted sediment down there that will impede water flow. We block the downspout, blow everything out of the gutter into a receptacle, then unblock the spout and blast water through.” For that, “We use a spinning roto-jet nozzle that we can crank up to 4000 psi or down to 200 psi as needed.”

Hamilton’s prices start at around $175 per house and go up from there, depending on size. “We perform a flow test; if we see leaking at the seams, we’ll seal them. If necessary, we’ll readjust spikes to improve the angle of flow. We remove debris, clear the roof, and do a free pressure rinse of the home’s exterior.”

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Comments

bobcleans April 13, 2011 @ 5:05 p.m.

Nice article on Home Safety and the benefits to hiring a professional gutter cleaning company. Ladders can be dangerous when you don't use them properly. Don’t take any chances! One slip can not only cost you a trip to your local emergency room, but can put you out of commission for weeks or even months.

Often times your prospective changes in the hospital.

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