My main job in preparing for Hurricane Ian was to clean the gutters. I had noticed, during the previous weeks of heavy rain, that there was a waterfall in front of my office window. I looked out other windows and found the same. So all the holes (the drop outlets connected to the downspouts) were plugged. Truth be told, I like the waterfall effect. But from commercials that advertised installing screens over your gutters, I am aware that such overflowing can damage the underlining wooden structures of my roof. However, I procrastinated, even when my wife complained that water was seeping through the north wall of her art room during the heaviest rains – though that was from the miniature lake that formed on the ground below the windows. While I enjoy the view of water streaming down in sheets as though I were in a cave looking out, I very much more dislike the view of inside a gutter from the top of a ladder. Ladders and stairs are foes of gravity. I prefer to be a friend of gravity, and so I don’t want to annoy it. But suddenly, Ian was coming.
So I started cleaning, using a long, narrow scoop made just for that. I bought it, and also eight downspout extensions from Lowe’s the day before. (For one section of gutter, which is over the very stained, white flat roof of the patio, I had to enlist the aid of my grandson, Rye. Since I was already on the ladder, I thought I just might climb the rest of the way, for old time’s sake, but my wife grew panicky.) After I uncovered the holes for the outlets, I brought up a hose to make sure the spouts where clear. Three of the nine were not. Two were clogged at the top elbow, and one was clogged at the bottom. Altogether, I had to remove twenty-eight little rusty screws, of the bolt-head type, from elbows and straps. Naturally I lost two screws in the grass and had to replace them with longer, Phillips screws. (Hey, one out of fourteen isn’t bad for me.) The lower elbow was so packed with compost-like muck that I had to jab it out with a metal stake. I also had to hammer in four loose long-nails. My gutters are mounted by what’s called a spike and ferrule hanger, instead of a bracket hanger. I don’t know which one is best.
When everything was reattached and flowing freely, I got to work on the extensions. I bought eleven of the corrugated, plastic tubes. Each is about twenty-four inches long but pulls out to about forty. They’re not difficult to attach to the elbow or to each other, and I was happy about that. The biggest job was the spout at the corner of my wife’s art room. In order to make sure there would never again be a mini-lake right outside, I had to connect six of the extensions to channel rainfall over the hump of the yard. That’s nearly twenty feet of tube. Looks terrible, but by golly no water is going to start loosening those new tiles on the floor!
Guttural advice: always set your ladder near the corner when beginning this task, never in the middle of the eaves; chances are, the corner’s where the blockage is, since gutters tilt down to the outlets, or should. Save yourself the physical and mental labor of climbing, if your bones insist on acting ancient, especially when using a common extension ladder. That’s what I have, and I hate it. I want a roof ladder, designed by me. It would be six feet wide, with cleated twelve-inch by twelve-inch shoes, have self-adjusting hooks on the top to accommodate angular discrepancy on the ground, and after I step on the first rung I should be able to push a button and be escalatored to the roof. The next best thing would be a cherry-picker, a home version, a small hydraulic crane powered by propane or four AA batteries – I only need to get to the gutters and perhaps now and then to walk the roof, and I don’t want it to be so heavy that it would crush my sprinkler pipes. And I’d like to drive around the house and check for tile damage and fallen branches. If I ever build my perfect abode, I’d have an elevator in the middle of a back room that reaches the roof, and a sturdy railing all around. Gutter-wise I’d invent rain troughs that, with a flip of a switch located on the wall of my garage or in the arm of my easy chair, would hinge down and dump the tree debris on the yard below, and I’d include, for minimal additional cost, a connection to a water pipe that would rinse the gutters clean while they’re upside down. I’ll market it as a Gutter Bidet. But I think the best solution to keeping gutters clean is to not have any trees near your house. Well, except perhaps evergreens.