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Keeping Your Gutters Clean: DIY Vs. Professional

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- When the leaves start falling this time of year people start thinking about their gutters again. You want to make sure the leaves don't clog them before a big rain or a freeze. What gutters are right for a home and can a gutter guard help? WCCO found out when to bring in the professionals and what you can DIY.

Jeff Menke with Gutter Helmet said gutters are a must for Minnesotans.

"What a gutter does is helps bring the water to certain points at the outside parts of the house and disperses it away properly," Menke said.

The idea is to keep water out of the basement and away from the foundation. The cost to have a company do the install is a few hundred dollars more than buying gutters at a hardware store, getting on a ladder and putting them up yourself. Plus they are seamless which takes away some of the worry if you don't install and caulk the joints just right.

"You could end up with a lot of problems. Fascia rot, you could end up number one with, water in your basement is a big issue that I see most common," Menke said.

Once the gutters are up, they do need to be maintained and cleaned two to three times a year. Gutter guards can help keep the leaves out, while still allowing the rain to fall and flow. And they prevent ice dams which can be destructive.

Gutter Helmet is known for their accessory.

"A gutter helmet would be a cover device that retrofits over the existing gutters to help keep all the leaves and debris out but it also allows all the water to enter into the gutter so basically keeps the gutters free flowing," Menke said.

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Menke said the horizontal ribbing slows the water down and the reverse curve wraps the water around and back into the gutter.  It's pricey but you'll never have to get on a ladder to clean again. There is a lifetime warranty and it can be transferred to the next owner.

Your local hardware store is also an option if you're looking for a less expensive do-it-yourself project.

"We carry about five different kinds in the store here. Something as simple as a foam block to put in there to keep all the stuff from coming down there. All the way to wire mesh to plastic mesh with a real thin, fine screen on it so nothing can fall through," Home Depot associate director Dan Shaper said.

He said the easiest, most cost-effective option is a foam block.

"You literally just plop it in your gutter. That's all you have to do," Shaper said.

It's their best seller. An average home needs about 120 feet. The foam gutter guard runs $180.

Another option is go to with a metal hinged guard.

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"This can still get seeds and still get pine needles through it but this one's really easy to install. It's got two little hinges, all you do is just take those, put them on the front of the gutter and then push in," Shaper said.

The guard doesn't offer full protection so a homeowner would still need to clean the gutter from time to time. The price: $98.

A snap in fine mesh guard provides a layered approach.

"The one with the wider mesh and the finer mesh to catch all the debris such as the fine pine needles," Shaper said.

That's what Shaper would choose for his home but the install requires a little more work, and a drill. The average home runs $84. The gutters may need to be checked every couple years.

Shaper says the DIY choice comes down to preference: how much you want to spend and how often you want to maintain the gutter.

"You'll get your money back on it 10 times over when you think about the cost of either having somebody clean it or spending the time for yourself going up two to three times a year," Shaper said.

Home Depot will install the guards for a fee.

Gutter Helmet gives complimentary estimates.

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