The DIY Gutter Installation Dilemma
Unless you’re properly trained, installing gutters on your own can be a pretty dangerous proposition. In fact, regular gutter maintenance can, in itself, can be a pretty nasty and risky job.
For homeowners, the fall season signals the impending need to complete home maintenance tasks before winter arrives. One of the most important things in home maintenance is keeping your gutters clean. Cleaning your gutters out at least twice a year—once in the spring, and again in the fall—ensures proper drainage, which helps you avoid roof leaks and, since it keeps moisture away from your home, prevents foundation issues.
But gutter cleaning is often considered tedious and unpleasant and most of all, dangerous. In fact, a bruised ego from a fall could be the least of your worries, which is why gutter cleaning is best left to the professionals. One way to avoid having to periodically climb up on your roof to clean out your gutters is to install gutter protection.
While it may be tempting to pick up a ladder and resort to a DIY job when installing your gutters or when putting in gutter protection, it may not be the smartest thing to do. Here’s why:
The numbers don’t lie: Over 90,000 people require emergency-room treatment for ladder-related injuries each year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, falls from ladders accounted for as much as 20% of fatalities in 2009 alone. More recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics likewise lists elevated falls as one of the most prevalent causes of occupational deaths—almost 700 yearly or 15% of all occupational deaths—second only to motor vehicle crashes.
If you feel confident about installing your gutters or gutter guards yourself instead of hiring a professional, you will need to take safety very seriously. A ladder is seemingly one of the simplest tools you can use—but you need to know the proper safety precautions to take to prevent injury and death.
Picking the right ladder – The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) rates ladders based on their use and weight restrictions. To install gutters or gutter guards on a single-story home, you’ll want a sturdy four-legged ladder. Two-story abodes may require an extension ladder. The important thing is that your ladder be capable of holding both your weight as well as your equipment’s.
Wooden ladders aren’t the best choice because they’re hard to balance safely and are often wobbly. Opt instead for an aluminum ladder, a type of ladder which performs admirably both in terms of strength and support. Some homeowners go for fiberglass ladders, but these are heavy and rather cumbersome to move around.
Check for sturdiness by jumping lightly on the first rung a few times. If the soil is soft around the area where you plan to put your ladder, you may need to place a piece of plywood underneath the ladder’s legs to make it level and steady. Inspect the ladder for loose screws and bolts and, when using an extension ladder, check that the hinge arms are properly locked in place before you climb on.
Never overreach or overextend yourself beyond the ladder rail—this is the most common cause of falls. Other factors that can lead to falls include defective equipment, slipping on rungs, and using the wrong ladder for your task. Always follow the “three-point contact rule,” which is to have two legs and one hand, or two hands and one foot, firmly on the ladder at all times to ensure balance and stability; balancing on one leg while using both hands to install your gutter guard is an open invitation to disaster. For additional safety, get someone to spot you and help you carry the ladder, keep it stable, and assist in transporting equipment up and down the ladder.
The Center to Protect Workers’ Rights recommends that the base of your ladder be placed one (1) foot from the building. Also, make sure your ladder is not placed in front of or near a doorway where others may accidentally knock it over.
Apart from ladder safety, you might want to carefully consider other related concerns before deciding to do any DIY gutter installation. Installing DIY gutters or gutter protection could be marginally cheaper but, as they say, you get what you pay for. You may be a great handyman, but inexperience can often lead to hard-to-correct mistakes that can be costly.
Professional gutter and gutter protection installation, on the other hand, buys you the services of someone with years of experience and knowhow. Not only will professionals ably handle the difficult aspects of installation, they’ll also have the right equipment to do the best installation job. What’s more, professionals can stand behind their work and be held liable for the quality of their workmanship.
Professional installation also distances you from any safety concerns. It ensures you of adequate insurance against injuries to workers as well as any damage caused to your home during installation.
Your best option will always be to call in a professional to do the job. Money saved doesn’t count for much if you end up with gutters or gutters guards that fail to function properly, or simply don’t last.
Steve Field has been in the industry for more than 30 years. He is a passionate roofer and is willing to help anyone in need. During his free time, he loves to spend time with his family, play golf, bond with his children. He also loves writing; he has dedicated his blog to sharing tips and experiences to people. Check out his blog here, http://www.homesolutionsmidwest.com/about-us/blog/.
Image Credits:: http://www.bigstockphoto.