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Safety Tips for Fall Gutter Cleaning

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It’s November, and most of the leaves here in Atlanta have fallen. That means a huge mess, especially for your gutters. Falling leaves can clog gutters quite quickly. If your gutters are too clogged to work properly, you could be risking serious damage to your largest investment, your home. Water that backs up can damage your roof. Water that pours over the sides of a clogged gutter can gather at the base of your house’s walls. From there, it soaks into the ground and damages your foundation. If your gutters aren’t doing their job, you could risk flooding around your home, killing grass, creating mud, and generally damaging your property. So it is critical that your gutters are cleaned at the end of a messy season of falling leaves. But safety is also  crucial. TrustDALE is here with some tips to make your fall gutter cleaning easier, quicker, and safer.

Safety Tips for Fall Gutter Cleaning [infographic]

Safety First

Gutter cleaning almost always means getting on a ladder. But before you climb onto the first rung, we want you to know some sobering facts about ladders and safety. 

Every year, nearly half a million Americans are injured falling off a ladder. Most of the time, the injuries are pretty minor. But about 20% of the time, those injuries land someone in the emergency room. And half of those visits turn into extended stays. And it’s not construction workers or people working high up who are getting injured. Fewer than 3% of injuries from falls occur at work. In fact, almost all extended hospital stays occur after falls from less than 12 feet. That’s about the height of a typical one-story roof. For older adults, falls are especially dangerous. Falling is the number one cause of accidental death for adults 65 years and older.

Before you undertake any work that requires climbing on your roof or scaling a ladder, make sure can do it safely. If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t do it. There are plenty of professional services that will clean your gutters. Nothing is worth risking your health and safety.

If you do choose to do the work yourself, make sure you aren’t alone. Before you do any work that requires climbing a ladder, tell someone what you are doing. Make sure that someone can check on you if you have an emergency. Ideally, get someone to come with you as a spotter.

Ladder Safety

When you are ready to set up your ladder, make sure that it is set up on firm, dry, ground. Many serious accidents are the result of a ladder that slips out from underneath a worker. Never place a ladder on slick or uneven ground.

There are two main types of ladders. Step ladders can be 6 or even 8 feet tall. You will rarely find them taller due to weight constraints. A step ladder is a good choice because it is self-supporting on four legs. Just make sure to place it on firm, even ground. If you need more height than a step ladder can offer, you may want an extension ladder. An extension ladder can extend to 40 feet or more. However, the most common height for ladders used at home is about 20 feet. If you are using an extension ladder, you will need to lean it up against something. In the case of gutter cleaning, you will be leaning the ladder against your house. Make sure the ladder is very firmly placed on the ground. An extension ladder is more likely than a step ladder to slip. Also, may sure it is leaning against a part of the house that can support the weight of you, the ladder, and then some. Never lean a ladder against the gutter. Gutters are not meant to support that weight and can separate from the roof. If that happens, you would be in for one nasty fall.

Always follow the printed safety instructions when using a ladder. Never climb onto the top two rungs or steps. They are not meant to hold your weight. Also, never climb or descend a ladder without at least one hand on the ladder to hold you steady. When standing on a ladder, don’t try to reach too far. Instead, go back down and move the ladder. Overreaching can throw off your balance.

Protective Gear

Once you get up on a ladder and check out your gutters, you may find them filled with sludge. Even a well maintained home can collect sludge in the gutters, especially here in Atlanta. With the amount of vegetation around us, leaves, pine needles, and even dirt quickly build up in the gutters. When mixed with water and heated by the sun, you very quickly get a mini compost pile. However, before you start scooping that sludge out, make sure you are properly protected.

The first piece of protective gear you will need is a good pair of work gloves. Make sure they are thick and at least water resistant if not waterproof. The gloves will keep your hands clean, but they are also for safety. It’s easy to cut your hands on bits of twisted metal or wire on weathered gutters. Also, the sludge is mostly organic waste, but it’s definitely not clean. That sludge is full of bird feces, squirrel dropping, and similarly nasty things, and crawling with bacteria. You don’t want that in an open cut or even under your fingernails. Gloves are an absolute requirement.

In addition to gloves, don’t overlook protective eyewear. As you are pulling out leaves and grime from the gutters, it’s inevitable that there will be some splashback. We’ve even seen small critters come flying out. Frogs, flies, bees, wasps, and even rats can be hiding in the grime. So it’s critical that you protect your eyes.

Finally, with all that animal waste and bacteria mixed in the gutter sludge, it may be a good idea to wear a respirator or dust mask. This will protect you from inhaling harmful substances such as bacteria and mold spores.

Safe Climbing Gear

It is essential when climbing a ladder or onto a roof that you have the appropriate clothing to keep you safe. Always wear shoes with a rubber sole or other gripping material. Gloves should fit well and not be made of a slick or slippery material. If the bottom of your shoes is wet, dry them as well as possible before climbing.

Also, make sure that you don’t have too many things in your hands when you climb. Ideally, you should have someone on the ground hand you the items you need after you have safely climbed your ladder. If you don’t have anyone to help you, use a tool belt or lift your tools up to the roof before you get on the ladder. Make sure that you have one hand to keep you balanced as you work. If you use a hose, try to get a hose with a pistol grip so that you can adjust the flow with one hand.

Hiring Professionals

If you aren’t sure you can safely climb a ladder and scoop out your gutters, leave it to the professionals. With the high number of falls and accidents related to do-it-yourself gutter cleaning, it makes sense to be safe. There are plenty of companies who will clean your gutters for you. 

You can check out TrustDALE certified gutter cleaners here. Remember, when you connect with a business via TrustDALE.com, you are protected by Dale’s Make-It-Right Guarantee™. So don’t risk an accident this fall. Get your gutters clean the safe, easy way with a TrustDALE certified gutter cleaning expert.