Ladder Safety when cleaning gutters
For home owners that are doing their own gutter cleaning, here are some tips from what I have learned cleaning hundreds of gutter around much of Connecticut. If you hire me to clean your gutters these are the lessons I have learned and principles I follow. If you need some one to do gutter cleaning for you here in Connecticut contact me.
The task of gutter cleaning is a necessary evil that is part of home maintenance in New England with all the trees. The only real way to prevent the need for gutter cleaning is to not have any gutters on the house or no trees near by. If you have no gutters then you can have problems with erosion in the landscaping, damage to the house and moisture in the walls etc. So if you have gutters and are going to do the gutter cleaning your-self here are some tips on how to do it safely and well.
There are all sorts of devices and approaches on how to clean gutters. There are robots, vacuums, hooks, hose attachments, blowers and gizmos. Most gutters that need cleaning are wet and packed with material. One sure method is picking them out by hand with good quality gloves. This works every time you just need to get up to the gutters to do the gutter cleaning with the right type of ladder and do it safely. The number of people hurt cleaning gutters every year is high so please do not be the one who is. In 2011 the CDE reported there were 113 fatalities, 34,000 emergency room visits and 15,460 injuries that resulted in more than a day off from work from the wrong use of a ladder
- Make certain that you use a sturdy ladder. Ladders have a rating system that designates the weight capacity of who uses it. Many inexpensive ladders can be rated as a household ladder or a Type III ladder rated at 200 lbs. This type of ladder is less rigid than the heavier duty ladders with higher ratings of 250 to 300 lbs. leaving the user feeling shaky. With fear of the stability it is hard to work comfortably. Always set the ladder on level ground. This is often not practical with homes built on hilly terrain and side slopes. The safe solution to this is adjustable legs. Without this blocking has to be used to prop up the ladder to keep it level and then the issue is how well the leveling is done. Naturally the ground the ladder is put on affects its safe use. If standing the ladder in a flower bed, be sure all straw or mulch is moved out of the way to allow the ladder is set firmly on the ground.
- If you are using an extension ladder do not lean the ladder on the gutter. It will scratch the finish on the gutters and the forward edge of the gutter can provide a slippery rail for the ladder to slide on. To help prevent the ladder from sliding sideways or out from under you use a standoff. This is a U shaped device that holds the ladder away from the gutter. I prefer to put the standoff on the roof so the shingles help provide friction and hold the top of the ladder in place. This also helps create drag if the bottom of the ladder wants to slip out. Prior to climbing make sure the sections are correctly locked in place. If there is doubt about the bottom sliding out tie the ladder off to an immovable object. In climbing the ladder there should always be at least three points of contact with the ladder at all times.
- Once you’ve climbed the ladder up to the gutter line do not reach too far to the side. This is one of the leading causes of falls. keep your hips square over the ladder to maintain your balance. You should never lean away on either side of the ladder. Make more moves with the ladder rather than risk a fall. The other “safety” device to use is a painter’s bucket hook. This lets you bring up a 5 gallon bucket hook it to the ladder and have your hands free to hold on to the ladder and put material into the bucket. Without this just through the debris to the ground and pick it up after.
- When climbing the ladder you should not stand on the top 2 steps of the ladder. It is easy to lose your balance when standing on these two steps. Do not trust the gutter attachment to hold you if you should slip. Many hangers often are lose and or the fascia may be rotted.
- If you decide to clean the gutters from the roof, use a safety harness for protection from falling. One issue is standing up quickly, if you are prone to dizziness when you do stand up stay away from the edge even on a very flat roof. Never try to lean out over the gutters.
- Don’t try to climb a ladder or clean your gutters from the roof during wet, icy, or windy conditions. The wind can be so strong as to blow a ladder right off the side of a building.
- When working on the roof or climbing a ladder it is a good idea to wear non-slip shoes like sneakers or work boots.
- You should wear flexible heavy duty rubber gloves. Sherwin Williams has a rubber glove that will let you grab the gutter gunk but not tire out your hands. This also helps to keep your hands from getting soaking wet, cut up on sharp metal edges and the tips of screws on the inside of the gutter. Nothing worse than getting metal cuts on your hands in the dirt and smelly dirty water in gutters.
- Never work around or near power lines. Often the power line feeds into the house right over or under the gutters. Extreme caution is required. Not all lines are well insulated. The right way type of ladder to use around any power line is fiberglass since it is not a conductor. The disadvantage of fiberglass is increased weight that has to be moved around the house. The difference in weight can be substantial with a taller ladder.
- Step ladders are inherently difficult since there are four points of ground contact that all need to be level to work safely.
By following these safety tips when cleaning your gutters you’ll do it safely. Safety is the most important thing you can do when preparing to do work to your home. If not comfortable with doing this or you do not have the right equipment contact a professional gutter cleaning contractor that does and uses the equipment safely.