Q)My father has told me that my teen-age friends and I could make good money after school cleaning leaves and debris out of gutters because most people don't have 40-foot ladders, so even renting the equipment would be worthwhile.

I'm willing to work hard and am anxious to make a little extra money, but I wonder how important it is to have a house's gutters cleaned. Seems to me that the water will either seep through the leaves eventually and go down the spout or slip harmlessly over the edge.

But Dad tells me clogged gutters can cause structural damage to a house when it rains, even affecting the basement. If he's right, there should be money in the gutter-cleaning business. But I am not sure he is right. -- B.J.

A)Your father is right. Clogged gutters and plugged downspouts can cause major structural damage to a house. Rainwater that is not collected and channeled away from a house is destructive. Water wears away the paint on the siding, seeps into the walls and around windows and starts wood rotting.

On the ground it erodes soil and plantings and causes foundation and basement dampness. Runoff that freezes in the soil near a house can destroy basement walls. Standing water and debris make gutters sag and leak and eventually will send sheets of water down along the walls to the foundation. An annual inspection is recommended to ward off serious problems.

Here are a couple of tips you can use if you decide to proceed with the gutter-cleaning project:

Clear away all twigs, leaves and organic debris that have accumulated in the gutters and downspouts. Wear heavy gloves and scoop out the debris with your hands. If you find any dirt caked to the bottom of the gutter, use a putty knife to scrape it loose.

To clean a clogged downspout, push a garden hose down into the first bend and have your helper turn on the faucet. The weight and pressure of the water will free most small clogs. If the water backs up, force more of the hose into the downspout. The end of the hose will act as a ramrod, and the pressure of the water will flush the debris as it is knocked loose. If all else fails, take the downspout apart and clean it on the ground.

You should also inspect the gutters for sagging, which will hinder the flow of water to the downspout. A minimum of 1/8 inch for every foot of run toward the downspout is required.

Also inspect for small rust holes or other damage. The smaller holes can be repaired with roofing cement, spread over an area at least twice as large as the hole. Clean the surface first with a putty knife and wire brush, wiping away dust and debris with a soft cloth. Larger holes will have to be patched with a piece of aluminum flashing, set in place with roofing cement and sealed around the edges.

Although you may not want to get into repairs, it is a good idea to inspect the gutters and report suspect areas to your clients.

I would certainly welcome this type of service in my neighborhood. Good luck.

Q)A recent answer in your column included the instructions "do not use a dehumidifier" to prevent mildew in a closet. I am uncertain whether that includes both electric and crystals.

My clothes closet does not show mold, but there is a slight musty smell and I have been using a nonelectric dehumidifier, putting the open canister on a closet shelf, and emptying it as the water accumulates. I would appreciate any advice you can give me. I do not have central air conditioning and I leave the closet door open during the day. -- F.C.L.

A)Unforunately, my statement on not using a dehumidifier was misleading. I have had several letters concerning this recommendation.

I should have specified that an electric dehumidifier should not be used in a closet-size space. This can create other problems by drying out the area and its contents excessively.

Your use of a chemical dehumidifier is fine. And continue to air out the closet by opening the door.

Q)My home's interior walls are painted cinderblock. The surface is very uneven. I would like to upgrade with wallpaper. What would be the most effective method of hanging the wallpaper? Also, what suggestions would you have for areas I might not want to wallpaper? The paint I have used in the past is quality latex, but it just looks dingy. -- C.W

A)To effectively wallpaper over cinderblock you will need to apply a wall lining. Wall liners, similar in color and texture to the interfacing material used to stiffen shirt collars and cuffs, are made of strong polyester fabric. They will adhere to cement block, evening out mortar lines and roughness, and even cover stucco, bridging cracks and other cavities. Check with your local wallpaper dealer.

Before you paint or use a wall liner, be sure to seal the cinderblock with a quality masonry primer. One of the reasons your painted cinderblock looks dingy is because of the uneven texture of the surface, which reflects light unevenly. Better lighting might help. Darker colors would minimize this effect more than lighter shades.

Send inquiries to Here's How, Copley News Service, P.O. Box 190, San Diego, Calif. 92112-0190. Only questions of general interest can be answered in the column.