Cleaning your gutters and windows can be a dangerous undertaking. Each year thousands of people die or are injured from falls from the roof or a ladder while cleaning their gutters or windows. It is usually advised that you pay for a professional to do these chores for you, but there are a few things you can do to make these periodic tasks safer.
The cleanliness of your gutters may not be something you think about very often, but the necessity of a regular cleaning will be apparent if a clogged gutter allows rain to back up, causing a leaky roof, flooded basement, rotting trim or even a cracked foundation.
And keep in mind that rain-filled gutters are heavy, making it more likely that the gutter will detach from the house and fall off. Periodic cleaning can be a pain, but a much smaller one than if this task is neglected. The aches and pains of your body will be less if this task is maintained as well!
How Often Should You Clean?
It is recommended that you clean your gutters twice a year, in late spring, after the trees have dropped their seedlings, and again in late fall after most of the leaves have fallen. Don’t wait until every last leaf has fallen, as a snowfall or freezing temperatures will make the job a lot more difficult.
Washing your outside windows should also be done periodically. Some modern windows, such as the casement type, are hinged vertically so that the outside of the window can be cranked into the house, allowing you to safely wash the window from inside your home. If you have fixed or double hung windows, however, you will need to use a ladder to get to them.
Buying a sturdy ladder is important. If your house is a single story, you may be able to reach the gutters with a stepladder, however, you should ensure you can reach the gutters easily without having to resort to standing on the top two steps, which are unsafe. If the stepladder is not quite tall enough, it will be necessary to buy an extension ladder. Check to be sure it is rated for your weight and the load you will be carrying.
The ladder should be placed on a level surface. Hardware stores carry levelers you can use if the ground is uneven. You can also place the ladder on a sturdy board if the ground is soft to achieve stability. If possible, it is best for safety to have someone hold the bottom of the ladder while you work.
Be sure to wear sturdy shoes that have a non-slip tread and always keep both feet on the same step or rung of the ladder. Moving one foot to a different step will destabilize you and can lead to a fall. Any tools you take with you to clean the gutters or wash the windows, such as a trowel or squeegee, should be attached to a tool belt or put in a bucket that can be hung from the ladder so you can keep your hands in contact with the ladder as much as possible. And when transferring tools from one hand to another, do it behind your back so your upper body does not have to come away from the ladder.
Get off the ladder and move it regularly so you can easily reach the areas you are working on without having to lean outside the ladder rails. You should not have to stretch to reach your work area.
Keeping these simple tips in mind should allow you to keep your house looking its best without too great a risk to your health!