Angie’s List: Fall Cleaning Jobs

(credit:  Phran Novelli)

(credit: Phran Novelli)

jim-donovan-web Jim Donovan
Jim Donovan is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter w...
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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — While the trees might look beautiful this time of year, those falling leaves can be a nuisance. But it’s one job that shouldn’t be ignored before the cold weather sets in.

And that’s not all. In this week’s Angie’s List, Jim Donovan shows you some fall cleaning jobs you need to do to make sure your house is ready for the winter.

A dreaded but important fall cleanup job is getting rid of all those leaves.

“Because if they are left, there they are going to deprive your lawn of important sunlight and rain that’s going to help it through the winter months. Additionally, if the leaves are left on the ground they could lead to mold problems and even pest problems because the water will get trapped in the lawn,” said Angie’s List founder, Angie Hicks.

And if you have large yard, it might be worth it to hire someone for the job.

“Especially if you’re going to find that the job is too strenuous for you or you don’t have the right equipment,” said Hicks.

Another important job: tackling those gutters. If they’re not clear, you could end up with water trouble. It can end up in your basement or even cause damage to the wood around your roof. But you might want to call on a pro.

“Gutter cleaning can seem like a really simple task, but it’s actually probably one of the more dangerous tasks consumers can tackle around the house because it requires being up on a ladder, potentially stretching. If you don’t have the proper equipment, the right size ladder, and help to make sure someone is spotting you while you are on the ladder you really might want to consider hiring a professional helping you because one of the leading causes of injuries around the house are people falling off ladders,” said Hicks.

More advice from Angie:

Angie’s List tips for clearing the leaves and setting the stage for a lush lawn come spring:

Don’t be a procrastinator: It’s important to get the leaves off the ground quickly. Fallen leaves will deprive your grass of crucial sunlight during the fall months, which can lead to weakened root systems. Worse yet, leaves can accumulate and get wet, leading to mold growth and attracting pests.

Call ahead for help: If hiring a professional, schedule service at least a week in advance of when you want the leaves raked up. Most leaves should be down by late November or early December.

Keep mowing: Continue to mow your lawn until the first frost. This will keep the grass strong and healthy. Remove the leaves when your grass has stopped growing.

Alternative methods of leaf removal: An alternative to raking and bagging is to mulch the leaves with a lawnmower. The compost serves as good fertilizer for grass. Avoid mulching up against trees, as the mulch can attract insects, which could damage or kill the tree.

Remove leaves from your deck: Leaves that accumulate on decks can lead to algae, mildew and mold, plus cause the wood to rot. Clearing the leaves from your deck before the winter hits can ensure it’s safe and ready to be used when spring returns.

Check your drains: If your yard is near a street-side storm drain, check that area for leaves. Clumps of wet leaves after a heavy rain can prevent drainage, which can flood your yard and street.

What does your city require? Some cities ask you to place leaves at the curb in paper bags. Others tell residents to rake them into a row or pile at the curb so municipal vacuums can collect them.

Don’t overdo it: Raking is strenuous activity that can leave you with a sore back. Pace yourself and take frequent breaks.

Gutter Cleaning:

No matter where in the U.S. you live, your gutters and downspouts should be inspected twice a year (spring and fall) and cleaned if necessary.

Why clean your gutters?

An accumulation of debris in your gutters could lead to costly long-term damage to your roof and home.

Common problems are damage to the fascia, a leaky roof or basement, water damage to the interior, and landscaping erosion.

A thorough cleaning should include the removal of all debris from the roof, gutters and downspouts, checking for loose gutters and repairing any loose gutter spikes.

Cleaning your gutters yourself can be a risky proposition. Each year more than 500,000 people are treated for ladder-related injuries in the U.S. according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Homeowners who don’t have the right equipment or have a complicated roofline should consider hiring a professional.

Angie’s List advice on gutter cleaning:

Check insurance: When hiring a gutter cleaning professional, check that the company is insured and ask to see their policy. Check that you have enough homeowners insurance, as well, in case of an accident.

Have a helper: If you’re going to tackle the job yourself, get someone to stabilize the ladder and be on hand to help. Also, use a bucket attached to a rope to load up the debris and lower down to your helper to dispose of, so you’re not cleaning up twice.

Ladder safety: Always use a ladder that is long enough for the task and wear shoes that have good traction. Avoid leaning your ladder on the gutters, as this can damage them. Most hardware stores carry ladder extensions that curve to put the ladder weight on the roof.

Scoop it up: Put on some heavy-duty gloves or use a small gardening shovel to scoop out leaves, sticks and other debris that might be clogging gutters and spouts.

Get out the hose: After the debris is removed, use the hose for a final rinse to check that water is moving through your downspouts properly.

Clear obstructions: If the water fails to drain freely, use a plumbing snake or wet/dry vac to clear the clog from the bottom up.

Don’t forget to check gutter screens/guards: Protective barriers for gutters are growing increasingly popular, but are not a replacement for regular cleanings. An accumulation of debris in your gutters could lead to costly long-term damage to your roof and home. Check that these are not damaged or clogged with leaves.

Rest up! Take frequent breaks, especially when working from a ladder.

A final check: Once your gutters are clean, check to see that they are firmly attached to your home, and repair any loose spots you find.

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