How to Clean Gutters & Why It’s So Important

Why is it important to clean your gutters?

Your home’s gutter system controls the flow of rainwater from the roof by diverting it through downspouts. Gutters protect your home by moving rain and melting snow away from the roof, siding, foundation, basement, and landscaping. Without gutters, the runoff from these natural elements can cause damaging cracks, leakage and pools of water. 

Therefore, cleaning your gutter system is a necessary home maintenance task. The financial damage you can incur from damaged or clogged gutters is significant. Gutters that receive proper maintenance and cleaning can last 20-50 years and maintained downspouts can last 30-100 years.

What happens if you don’t clean your gutters?

When you don’t clean your gutters, you may incur steep financial costs and amass physical damage to your home. Examples of these damages include erosion, leaks, pest infestations and ice dams. Erosion and built-up water will weaken your foundation over time, eventually leading to cracks, shifting, or settling that damages floors and walls. When water collects in pools next to your home, it will seep down and cause basement flooding, an incredibly expensive repair. 

Clogged gutters make attractive hangouts for pests and rodents, which can be a serious health hazard for your family and pets. Leaf litter is a favorite habitat of ticks and mosquitoes use standing water to lay their eggs. Gutters being clogged with debris such as leaves and sticks can also cause sagging, mold growth, and rust that lessens the gutter’s lifespan. 

If you live in an area where it snows and do not clean your gutters, you are more likely to deal with damages to your property. Heavy snow storms during the winter can cause the formation of ice dams. Gutters clogged with leaves and debris can make it easier for ice dams to form since it prevents the melting snow and ice from properly draining. As water builds up behind the ice dam, it seeps under the roofing materials and can cause leaks. Ice dams can also cause water to collect under shingles, damaging the roof, fascia, and soffits on your home. Icicles can also form, adding additional weight to the gutters causing them to detach from the roof and damaging the fascia. 

How do you clean your gutters? 

You can either clean your gutters yourself, or hire a professional to come to your house and do it for you. If you are cleaning your gutters yourself, here are the steps you need to follow for an effective cleaning with a longer lifespan. 

  • Step 1: Place your sturdy, extendable ladder squarely on a level ground before you climb it. To start it should be placed near the downspout, you will work your way towards the closed end. Spread a tarp underneath your workspace to collect all the gutter gunk and protect your lawn and landscaping.
  • Step 2: Have two buckets available to make your job easier, one for debris as you move and one for your tools. Hook both buckets to your ladder for easy access.
  • Step 3: Remove and clean the downspout strainer by clearing large debris such as leaves and twigs by hand. Use a sandbox shovel or gutter scoop to clear out the more compacted debris.
  • Step 4: After most of the debris is removed, flush the remaining bits and dirt from the gutter with a garden hose.
  • Step 5: Fit your garden house with a spray nozzle and flush out the gutter with water, starting at the far end and moving toward the downspout. Use a strong stream of water and avoid spraying underneath roof shingles.
  • Step 6: If the water used for flushing isn’t draining quickly, check the downspout for clogs and any lodged debris. When the downspout is clog-free, flush the gutters once again.
  • Step 8: Check for proper water flow and drainage. Look for any leaks at the seams and seal them with gutter sealant. 
  • Step 9: Make sure all the gutters are secure and firmly attached to the house and add support hangers if needed. Inspect each gutter section and the downspout for damage. 
  • Step 10: To spruce up the outside of the gutters, use a pressure washer to remove any mildew or dirt and touch up with paint where necessary. 

What are the best practices for Cleaning Your Gutters? 

  • Tools: Scooping leaves and debris out of gutters with gloved hands can be effective, but specific tools can make the job much easier. For heavier buildup, some homeowners prefer to use a pressure washer or specialty gutter cleaning attachments for your garden hose. 
  • Attire: While cleaning gutters you should wear a long sleeved shirt, long pants, heavy-duty work gloves, rubber-soled shoes, and protective eyewear. Work gloves to keep your hands clean and protect you from any sharp objects that could be hidden in the debris. Rubber-soled shoes provide traction to avoid slipping off the ladder. Protective eyewear shields you from anything that may fly out of the downspout while cleaning such as bits of dried leaves or other debris.
  • Hiring a professional: If you aren’t comfortable using these tools or being on a ladder, you can hire a trained professional. Pricing for this service is typically based on how many linear feet of gutters you have.

What to avoid when cleaning your gutters 

Avoid using faulty ladders or performing the cleaning by yourself with no experience. Clearing debris from your gutters is seemingly straightforward, but can be dangerous if not done correctly. Inspect your ladder carefully before use to ensure the base is secure with even footing before you begin climbing. Avoid placing the ladder on landscaping rocks that can shift. To ensure your safety, have someone else hold the bottom of the ladder for stability or use a ladder stabilizer tool. While you’re up on the ladder, aim to keep your hips between the side rails to maintain your balance and avoid overreaching. Continue to move the ladder to a new spot as you work instead of reaching farther down your gutters to avoid potential falls. To maintain your balance, never climb above the second to last step of the ladder. You should also avoid cleaning your gutters with no gloves or eye protection, debris can be sharp! 

When is the best time to clean your gutters?

Gutters need to be cleaned at least twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. If your house is surrounded by trees, you will need to clean your gutters more frequently because of their exposure to more debris and leaves. If you have pine trees near your home, needles will need to be taken out every three months to reduce clogging in the gutters and downspouts. 

Cleaning gutters in early spring will help prepare them for the heavy spring and summer rains. In the early fall, clear out leaves and other debris that accumulated during the warmer months. If cold weather is around the corner, take the necessary steps to prepare your gutters for the winter time. You should also plan gutter cleaning ahead of severe storms. When possible, avoid cleaning gutters after it rains and allow a few days for the debris to dry out in order to make the task much easier. 

More gutter maintenance tips 

Regular maintenance will make your gutters last longer. At some point, they will need to be repaired or replaced to help protect your home from water damage. Not sure if your gutters need to be repaired or completely replaced? If you gutter has paint damage, rust, cracks, or mold they can likely be repaired. If your gutters are sagging or, they most likely need to be completely replaced. You can replace specific sections of the gutter that may have leaks or cracks. 

Make cleaning easier by preventing debris from clogging up your gutters in the first place. Often made of perforated metal or mesh, gutter screens can catch leaves, tree droppings, and other debris while allowing water to flow freely through your home’s drainage system. If you live in an area with a lot of trees or sometimes neglect gutter cleaning, gutter guards can be a worthwhile investment that protects your home for the long run.

If there is any standing water in the gutter, the gutter is not properly sloped. Gutters should slope 1/4-inch for every 10-feet toward the downspout, detach the hangers to adjust them.


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