Whether we like it or not, cleaning out the gutters is something every homeowner must do to ensure that their house is maintained and the foundation is sound. Although it might seem like a daunting and tedious task, it doesn’t have to be that bad if you know what you are doing.
If you have any questions about how to clean a gutter, when it is time to make repairs, and what you should do to stay safe during the process, this is the article for you.
Look at our step-by-step guide on cleaning gutters, tips and tricks to ensure the process goes smoothly, and other helpful information we collected to make this annual chore a breeze.
Why Should You Clean Your Gutters?
Cleaning your gutters is a typical warm-weather project that many people dread. Unfortunately, it has to be done to prevent damage to the rest of your home and rain drainage system.
Giving rainwater a place to go will adequately protect the edge of your roof, the foundation of your home, and the walls, not to mention your beautiful landscape below.
If left untreated, faulty gutters can lead to potentially serious and expensive damage. Some issues include:
- Mold buildup inside and outside your home. Mold is toxic and can cause health issues for you and your family.
- Sagging gutters, which will snap or crack. Sagging gutters lead to clogged drain spouts and broken brackets.
- Wet or flooded basements. This is a serious issue that can damage items and lead to foundation issues, among other things.
- Unwanted pests making homes in the debris stuck in your gutters. Creatures of all types will take advantage of the clumps of leaves and pooling water, making homes inside yours.
To avoid paying an arm and a leg for costly repairs or to hire an exterminator once the rodents and bugs move in, clean out your gutters as routine maintenance.
How Often Should You Clean Your Gutters?
Professionals suggest homeowners clean their gutters at least two times a year. Typically, the best time is in the spring, after winter snow and ice have thawed out completely, and in fall, when the trees lose their leaves, and it is time to prepare for the upcoming cold season.
Note: If you have trees close to your home, especially pine trees, you should clear your gutters every three months to prevent clogs in the downspout.
Should You Hire a Professional Gutter Cleaning Service?
Hiring a professional gutter cleaner is always an option. This service is often pricey, and during peak season, you might have to wait weeks or even months to get someone to come out.
With how easy it is to do this job on your own, you can avoid the problems that can come with hiring help.
When to Clean Your Gutters, Repair Them, or Replace Them
If you diligently maintain and clean your gutters at least twice a year, the number of repairs or necessary replacements will be few and far between.
With that said, you must have a clear understanding of when your gutters can be repaired and when it is time to replace them entirely.
Sometimes repairs are necessary to ensure the problem doesn’t get too out of control and to maintain a nice visual appeal. If you notice small cracks or splits in the gutters, they should be fixed immediately.
Even the smallest cracks will grow and can lead to soaking the facia board behind the gutters, eventually causing severe damage. You can quickly seal these cracks with special sealant products for this job.
Remember, the products you use must be weather and water-resistant. To seal cracks in gutters, you first have to clean your gutters completely. We will discuss this in detail in a few minutes.
If you notice any leaking during the cleaning, you have repairs to make. If the gutters are dry and you see water damage or watermarks on the area below the gutters, you have a leak somewhere that needs to be fixed.
If your gutters have large cracks or breaks, continue leaking after repairs, or you notice that they are sagging, it is time to replace them.
If you must replace your gutters, consider upgrading them to seamless products. You can also include screens and gutter guards to protect your new addition better.
Step-By-Step Guide to Cleaning Gutters Yourself
Here is a simple step-by-step guide to help you clean your gutters, getting a deep professional clean on your own.
1. Grab Your Gear
Before you start the cleaning process, having your tools and equipment set up and ready to go will be very helpful. This is going to save you a lot of time and hassle.
What you will need:
- Safety goggles
- 2 buckets
- Outdoor trash can
- Gutter scoop or trowel
- A partner, if possible
If you are wondering why you need two buckets, it is for convenience. One bucket can hold the debris, while the other can hold your tools, making it easier to access everything you need at one time.
2. Prepare for Everything (Follow Safety Tips, Especially on a Ladder)
As mentioned in step one, having a partner working with you is always best. An additional person can help hand you tools or pick up dropped debris. An extra set of hands is also helpful when securing the ladder, ensuring you don’t fall and get seriously injured.
Unfortunately, not everyone can grab a buddy when cleaning out their gutters. This isn’t what you would consider a fun friend project. In these cases, you can do a few things to stay safe while working on your roof.
- Use a ladder stabilizer to ensure your ladder stays in place while using an extension.
- Never go beyond the second to last rung of the ladder.
- Find the most solid area of ground to set up.
- Never stretch your arm beyond your reach.
- Consider using a rope system to prevent falling if working on a two-story home.
- Always wear your gloves to prevent cuts.
- Always wear your eye goggles to prevent debris from getting into your eyes.
Although you might think some of these suggestions can be bypassed, we highly suggest you follow each to prevent severe injuries or damage to your gutters.
3. Clear Out Your Gutters Completely
Set up your ladder right underneath the spot you want to start working. Attach both buckets to the ladder to keep them accessible and secure. Put on your gloves and safety goggles, and grab your trowel, small shovel, or gutter cleaner.
- Start cleaning near the downspout. Remove the downspout strainer and clear everything out.
- Clean up the large debris, such as leaves and sticks, with your hands. Then you can use your tools to remove the rest or anything compacted and stuck. Place this into your bucket.
- Make sure everything is cleaned out before moving on to the next step.
4. Flush Out Your Gutters with a Hose
With the large debris gone, it is time to flush out the rest of the gunk with a garden hose. This is a simple process and shouldn’t take long. Ensure you use a quality spray nozzle set on a strong stream setting.
- Safely carry the hose up your ladder and get into place, starting at the furthest end from the downspout.
- Spray a continuous stream of water until you notice there is nothing left that can clog the gutters.
- Make sure you do not spray any water up and underneath the shingles.
- You can also use a pressure washer for this job if your garden hose isn’t strong enough.
5. Check to See if the Downspout Is Draining Properly
As the water flows through the gutters and towards the downspout, look at the bottom of the tube and make sure it allows the water to flow freely. If you notice the water isn’t coming out or isn’t coming out fast enough, the downspout could be clogged.
If you have a clog, you will need to flush the downspout.
- Insert the hose into the downspout from the ground, spraying water upwards.
- With your hose set at full pressure to dislodge the clog.
- If the clog does not come free with this method, you can grab a plumber’s snake to remove the blockage. Once it is broken up, use the hose to flush the gunk out of the downspout.
6. Flush the Gutters a Second Time for the Final Inspection
When the large gunk, debris, and clogs are cleared from the gutter and downspout, you want to check the entire system with a strong water flow.
- Return to the furthest end from the downspout and spray ample water into your gutter.
- Watch the water flow through the gutters and down the downspout, ensuring it is moving across freely.
- Check to ensure there is no leaking, the gutters are firmly attached to the home, and there is no damage to the downspout.
At this time, you should also check to ensure the gutters are at the appropriate slope. The slope of your gutters ensures the water moves freely, at a downward angle, towards the downspout.
Rule of thumb: Your gutters should go in a downward angle of ¼ inch for every ten feet of length.
7. Take Preventative Measures
You can eliminate the need to tackle gutter cleaning regularly by taking preventative measures to ensure they stay clear and free from debris.
Aside from water, the best way to keep gutters empty is by placing gutter screens over them. These screens are specifically made to reduce the amount of junk that can fall into your gutters, causing damage from clogs or heavy weight.
If everything looks good, you are all set to go, your gutters should now be nice and clean and will continue to support rainwater, melting snow, and other materials that could damage your home.
Although this is not the most exciting chore to tackle, it is necessary. With the proper tools and understanding of how to take on such a task, you can do the job in no time and with ease.
If you are afraid to work on gutters high off the ground or don’t have the time to do it, you can contact a local professional to get the job done for you.
Replacing Your Gutters
The type of gutters you use and how well you maintain them is essential to determine their life expectancy. Of course, keeping your gutters clean and free of debris, damage, and avoidable weathering is one way of prolonging your gutters’ life.
Another way to ensure you won’t have to replace your home’s gutters more often than you want is to purchase quality products made from durable materials.
Types of Gutters for Your Home
There are tons of different gutter brands on the market today, each alluding to being the best option out there. However, if you are ready to purchase new gutters, there are a few essential features to consider.
The type of material your gutters are made from will significantly impact how long they stay intact over the years.
- Aluminum Gutters: These are the most common types of material gutters and are made from galvanized steel. This metal will often last for around 20 years.
- Copper Gutters: Copper isn’t often used these days, but used to be utilized decades ago. Copper gutters can last up to fifty years or more if your home has copper gutters.
- Vinyl Gutters: Depending on the weather, vinyl gutters can last 10-15 years.
It may come as a surprise to many people, but gutters do come in different shapes and sizes. These can vary depending on the curb appeal you are going for and the weather your home has experienced.
- Half-Round Gutters: If you have an older home, chances are good you have half-round gutters. These are semi-circle gutters with curved lips. These are ideal for areas with heavy rain.
- K-Style: This is the most common style of gutters today. They are 5-6 inches in width and have a rectangular downspout. These are perfect for DIY tasks because the flat back can be directly attached to your facia boards.
- Custom Gutters: Custom gutters are professionally installed and are ones where the gutters are directly connected to the facia board. These gutters can take a lot from the weather but will cost you.
You can also choose between seamed gutters and seamless ones. This can change the look and application of installing new gutters.
- Seamless Gutters: This comes in one single piece. If you are replacing your gutters, this is the best option because they have no joints between sections, making them more sound and providing a smoother appearance.
- Seamed Gutters: These gutters come in sections and are the best option when replacing parts of a broken gutter or if you’re looking for a less expensive system.
The annual rainfall your home sees can also play a massive role in what types of gutters you purchase and how much to buy. If your home sees a lot of rainfall, you want a larger gutter size to accommodate it.
Check Your Local Municipality for Regulations
Before any gutter replacements, contact your local municipality to ensure you follow the guidelines and regulations. You might have to comply with those rules rather than choosing the gutters yourself.
If you don’t have a large budget for your new gutters, there is no need to worry; there are options for everyone. Decide which factors are most important, then purchase products you can afford.
No matter what types of gutters you buy or how much you spend on them, they must be installed properly to be efficient. That means either hiring a professional to do the work or thoroughly doing your homework before doing it yourself.
Aside from the gutters, you also want to ensure you have the correct brackets, screws, installation tools, screens, etc. Ensure your products are weather resistant and durable, so you don’t have to make frequent repairs or replace parts often.
Helpful Tips for Cleaning Gutters
If you are determined to clean your gutters and do any repairs needed on your own, there are some tips and tricks to keep in your back pocket.
- Always use an extension ladder. These ladders are much steadier and more secure than step ladders or other options.
- Grab your shop vac. Once the large debris is gone and the twigs are removed, use a shop vac to get the last bit of junk and sludge caked onto the surface of your gutters.
- Use a power washer. Garden hoses are great for clearing out dirty gutters. But if yours have a lot of hard-to-clean gunk, a pressure washer will provide the power needed to do the job.
- Never push debris down the downspout. You can’t get away with skipping the junk removal step. If you try to wash large debris down the downspout, it can clog it, leading to a lot of unnecessary work.
- Touch up your gutters with some paint. You can always use a quality can of paint to touch up your gutters if they look dull, weathered, or stained. This is a great way to add curb appeal, especially if you are trying to see your home.
- Employ a leaf blower. Grab your leaf blower to remove the collection of leaves in your gutters. Before doing this, block your downspout with a washcloth to prevent clogs.
Here are some of the most common questions regarding gutter cleaning.
Can you clean your gutters from the ground?
Yes. You can actually clean your gutters without a ladder; however, it won’t be as efficient. You can do this by using a telescopic water pole, a dry vac with a long tube, and a pool net or something similar to remove large debris.
Can you clean your gutters yourself?
Absolutely. We provided a step-by-step guide above to offer insight on successfully cleaning your gutters. If you follow these steps, you won’t have to worry about paying a professional service to do the work for you.
What is the best material for gutters?
Aluminum alloy is the most popular option for gutter material. It is durable, can withstand weather and water, and is easy to work with. Plus, aluminum material is more affordable than other options.
Does it take two people to clean out your gutters?
While it is recommended you do not clean your gutters out alone, you can do it by yourself. Always take the proper safety precautions, such as securing the ladder, never reaching further than your natural arm span, and keeping a safe and steady pace.
Summing Things Up
Cleaning out your gutters doesn’t have to be a stressful and complicated task. While many people sigh at the thought of climbing up their ladder to remove gunk and debris from their roofs, it can be a quick and easy process.
Follow the guide above to get clean, clear, and beautiful gutters the town will envy. And hey, if it doesn’t work out, you can always call in the pros.