Although we often don’t give them much thought, the gutters on our homes do an important job. If you have clogged gutters, the rain from downpours can cause water damage to your roof and fascia, saturate your home’s foundation, and damage the flowerbeds and other landscaping around your home. Decaying debris also attracts mosquitoes, carpenter ants, and other pests you don’t want nearby. While you can pay someone to come clean your gutters, this guide will also walk you through the steps necessary to do it yourself.
How Often Should You Clean Your Gutters?
You should clean your gutters at least twice a year: once in the spring and once in the fall. If numerous low-hanging trees surround your home, you might need to clean your gutters more often. Additionally, you should always clean your gutters after a heavy storm. Finally, you’ll want to keep an eye on the weather a few days before you plan to clean gutters. Cleaning out debris is easier when it’s had a chance to dry out.
Equipment You’ll Need
When you’re ready to clean your gutters, there are a few items you’ll need to make the job easier and safer. This equipment includes:
- Dust mask
- Safety goggles
- Long-sleeve shirt
- Garden trowel
- Bucket or plastic tarp
- Hose with running water and high-pressure nozzle
How to Clean Your Gutters
1. Start at the Downspout
When you’re ready to clean your gutters, you want to start at the downspout. Wear your long-sleeve shirt, gloves, dust mask, and goggles for safety. Use the trowel to scoop out large clumps of leaves, sticks, and other debris. To save your lawn, dump the debris into the bucket.
2. Move to the Upper Gutters
Once you have the downspout clear, it’s time to move to the upper part of the gutters. This is when the ladder will come in handy. To prevent damage to your gutters, consider getting a ladder stabilizer. This convenient accessory locks onto the ladder and holds it away from your gutters so you don’t accidently dent one.
Once your ladder is stabilized on the ground, climb up to clean out the gutters that run along your roofline. You’ll want to use the garden trowel again to scoop out any large clumps of debris. If you can’t safely bring the bucket up with you to hold the debris, spread the plastic tarp under you and toss the debris down onto it.
3. Rinse Out the Gutters
Once you have all the debris cleaned out, use the hose with the high-pressure nozzle to rinse the remaining pieces of small debris toward the downspout. You can also take this opportunity to scrub away any mold or mildew that might be growing inside your gutters.
4. Clear Clogs
If you’ve cleaned out the top gutters and downspout but you have standing water in your gutters, you likely have a clog inside the downspout. To clear this clog, run a hose up the downspout with the high-pressure nozzle locked in the on position. Turn the water on and keep pushing the hose up until the water breaks the clog free. If that doesn’t work, a plumber’s snake or extension pole can clear the blockage. Once the clog is clear, make sure you rinse the gutters one last time.
5. Check the Gutter Slope
If you have standing water in your gutters and no clog in the downspout, the gutters might not be sloped correctly. Your gutters need to decline at least a quarter-inch for every 10 feet they go toward the downspout. If you don’t have enough slope in your gutters, detach the hangers and adjust the slope so the gutters can drain properly. You’ll want to work on small sections at a time to make sure your entire gutter system doesn’t fall down.
6. Check for Leaks
After you’ve cleaned the gutters and made sure they’re draining correctly, you’ll also want to check for leaks. Place your hose at the end of one gutter and turn the water on. If you see any leaks, you can mark them with a grease pencil. Grease pencils, sometimes also called china markers, are the ideal tool to use because they won’t scratch the surface and they can write on wet surfaces.
Once the gutters are completely dry, you can begin the repair process. If the leak is at a seam or end cap, you can apply a silicone rubber caulking compound to the inside and outside. If there’s a small hole in the gutter, use a putty knife to apply a generous amount of roofing cement around the hole. If you have a large hole in your gutter, you can place a piece of sheet metal patch over the hole and use the roofing cement to hold it in place.
The Pros and Cons of Gutter Guards
After your gutters are clean and working properly, you might be thinking about installing a gutter guard to keep debris out. There are three main choices available: screens that fit over your gutters and prevent large pieces of debris from falling in, foam blocks that go into the gutter and only let water through, and reverse curve guards that direct water into the gutter and debris away.
There are advantages and disadvantages to all three options. Mesh guards are easy to install, fit over most gutters, and do a good job of keeping large debris out. However, the small holes in the mesh can get clogged by fine pieces of leaves and dirt from your roof, making them just as inefficient as a clogged gutter.
Foam gutter guards are also easy to install, but you have to make sure you’re getting the right size to fit your gutter and they can slow down water draining, especially during heavy storms. Finally, reverse curve guards require little maintenance, but they’re the most expensive option and they can also slow down water draining. Also, keep in mind that no guard will keep debris out forever.
With this helpful guide, you’re now ready to clean the gutters and protect your home and landscaping from rain runoff.