How to Clean Your Gutters

How to Clean Your Gutters

gutter installations ctGutters direct rainwater away from a house and protect the siding, windows, doors, and foundation from water damage. You should inspect and clean your gutters in the spring and fall. Gutters and downspouts need to be kept free of leaves and other debris. Not cleaning gutters can make rainwater overflow, cause rust, and eventually pull the gutters down.

You can clean your gutters yourself if you can work safely from a ladder or the roof. If your house is more than one story high, you should hire a gutter cleaning service for the job.

Use a sturdy ladder. A tall stepladder is easier to use than an extension ladder. Place the ladder on a firm, level surface. If you have to lean the ladder against a gutter, you can protect the gutter by placing a short piece of 2×4 inside it. Stand with your hips between the rails of the ladder. Do not lean over the sides or stand on the top two rungs.

If your roof has a very low pitch, you can work from the rooftop, but only if the conditions are extremely safe. Don’t work on the roof if conditions are wet, icy, or windy. Wear non-slip shoes. Don’t lean over the edge or work near power lines.

Wear heavy work gloves to protect your hands from sharp metal or screws. You should also wear safety glasses or goggles. Use a bucket to collect debris. Place a drop cloth on the ground to protect areas below the gutters. Before you start to clean your gutters, rake leaves and debris off the roof, or they will fill up the gutters after you clean them.

Start at a drain outlet near the end of the gutter and use a narrow garden trowel to remove loose debris, working away from the outlet. This is easiest when the debris is slightly damp. Scoop the debris into a bucket.

Mount a high-pressure nozzle at the end of a hose and use it to wash out the gutters, working toward the drain outlet. Try to avoid splattering mud. You can use a stiff scrub brush to remove encrusted dirt.

If water doesn’t flow freely down the drainpipes, flush them with a hose. If that doesn’t work, use a plumber’s auger (snake) to remove debris from the bottom or push it down from the top.

If water runs through your gutters slowly, you may need to adjust the slope. Gutters should slope toward downspouts at a rate of ¼ inch per 10 feet.

Your gutters should direct water well away from your house. If they don’t, add downspout extenders or concrete or plastic splash blocks.

If you live in an area with a lot of rainfall, consider running your downspouts into a dry well. It should be a hole two to four feet wide and three feet deep or a 55-gallon drum with both ends removed and filled with rocks that is buried and punctured with holes. Check your local building codes before installing a dry well.

Check your downspouts for rust, flaky or peeling paint, or leaks. Be sure the downspouts are tightly affixed to the fascia boards and check the fascia boards for dry rot or other damage. Replace them with boards treated with a preservative, if necessary.

Gutter guards can catch leaves and keep them out of your gutters. They can dramatically reduce the frequency of required cleaning, but they are not a complete solution. If you decide to install gutter guards, be sure the screens can be removed easily for cleaning.

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