When it comes time to sell your home, there’s a place that many people forget to look, but leaving it unchecked could cause a messy problem. And cleaning it could pose a real hazard.

This past summer, the National Rain Gutter Contractors Association reported that "The father of former 76er Shawn Bradley died while caulking a rain gutter. NRGCA writes on its website that, "he fell off the roof of his home in central Utah." According to the site, "Doctors told the family his father suffered a heart attack."

NRGCA advises homeowners to leave gutter work to the professionals. But what type of work really needs to be done?

As fire season approaches in many areas in the country, warnings are being issued to take a good look above at the roofs and rain gutters.

"Despite a wet winter in most of the state, the threat of large and damaging wildfires still exists in California," says Del Walters, director of Cal Fire.

Debris from pine needles and leaves that collect in the rain gutter can lead to a fire hazard as well as block the rain gutter’s function, causing water to back up and potentially weaken the gutters and the home’s eaves.

Marler Inspections in Texas says dirty gutters can pose a number of additional threats to your home and you, including water leaks into the house which result in damage to the walls and flooring. And, of course, where there is standing water, there’s often rot, mold, and mosquitoes.

Because gutters are unobtrusive, they often are overlooked when it comes time for basic house maintenance. Marler Inspections writes on its site that how often you clean your rain gutters depends on a few things.

"Determining factors include proximity of trees to the roof line, the type of trees (deciduous vs. evergreen), and the slope of the roof. Low sloped roofs can require more frequent cleaning."

For instance, if you have a lot of trees close by your house (within ten feet of the roof), the recommendation is to clean the gutters at least twice a year. In the fall, that number could increased depending on how much the trees are shedding their leaves.

So are you in the clear if you don’t have trees or if they’re not close to your home? The simple answer, no. If you have asphalt shingles, the granules frequently wear off and accumulate in the gutters.

The colder it gets the greater the chance of freezing water in blocked up gutters. "There will be a lot of rain gutter damages as ice dams," Dairus Mark told NRGCA. "And as snow melts, if you have an asphalt roof, it can go through and come down the walls."

There are some systems on the market that claim to keep the gutters free of debris and leaves. However, experts caution that in heavy rain storms sometimes certain products may malfunction by causing the leaves to dam up on the rain and prevent rain from entering the gutter too.

The bottom line? Use experts to safely clean your gutters. And even if you have gutter guards, don’t rely solely on them--have your gutters checked regularly.

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