How to Clean Your Gutters

Printer-friendly version

Cleaning out the Gutters is anyone's favorite job, but it's got to be done. Here's how to do it right.

" />They may be no more than an afterthought to many homeowners, but those little gutters do a big job! Well-functioning gutters prevent your home from floods, rotten siding and other moisture-related predicaments. With all the time and effort you have put into improving your home, it's important to protect it from the elements.

Your gutters should be cleaned twice a year: once after the autumn's chill has summoned most of the leaves from the trees and again in the spring. While you are up there, check for any major damage incurred during the winter, so April showers don't wreak havoc on your home. As boring and time-consuming as it is, cleaning your gutters is an absolute must-do!

How to Prepare

De-gunking your gutters should be tackled on a dry day in comfortable clothing. If possible, we recommend cleaning the gutters from a ladder rather than standing on your roof.

Safety Check!: If you have a physical limitation, are pregnant or have a severe fear of heights, there's no shame in hiring someone to tackle this job for you.

DO!: There are several ways to go about cleaning out your gutters. You can scoop the muck out with your hands (protected with gloves, of course), use a plastic scoop or make your own by cutting a l liter plastic soda bottle. You might even consider climbing the ladder with a leaf blower in tow (some blowers have attachments especially made for gutter-cleaning - be aware however that too much horsepower could potentially damage your gutters.)

DON'T!: We don't recommend using a hose or a power washer for this project. The power washer is too strong while a hose may not be strong enough. What's more, you may actually clog your gutters trying to flush them.

It is okay, however, to use a hose if the downspout (the part of the gutter that descends from the roof to the ground) is already stopped up. Especially bad clogs can be tackled with an auger or a wire coat hanger. After you have cleared everything out, pour water down the downspout to make sure that there isn't any remaining blockage.

Jane Tip: Keep the ground clean by first placing a tarp on the ground and toss gutter gunk onto it. When you are finished, fold up the tarp and throw it away or put it in the compost. This will prevent you from having to clean the yard later.

Gutter Problems

Leaky, broken or sagging gutters can present a significant threat to your home, so it's best to tackle these problems as soon as possible! Most gutters are made of aluminum or galvanized steel, though vinyl gutters are gaining popularity. If your gutters are in pretty bad shape, consider replacing the whole system. The newer varieties are incredibly easy to install.

Jane Tip: Before getting up on your ladder, try to have all the tools you need ready in a tool belt. Place the ladder close to the roof, making sure that it's sturdy, perhaps even having a partner sit on the bottom of it for you for added stability. Take extra precaution when pulling a piece of the gutter off of the roof. When it comes loose, you may go flying off the ladder, so be sure you're always well balanced. Basically, be patient and take your time.

Leaks

Leaks in your gutters can come from joints that have become dislodged or from holes that have formed from weathering and basic wear and tear. If you have a leak at the joint of your gutter, you will have to seal it. For especially rusty gutters, spray the area with a lubricating rust remover prior to disassembling it. Once you have it in pieces, scrub it with a wire brush to remove any old caulk or lingering rust. Using a liberal amount of silicone caulk, re-seal the area and connect the pieces while the caulk is still wet.

If the leak is coming from a hole in the middle of the gutter, patching the hole is relatively easy. First, clean the area using water and a stiff wire brush to rid the area of any rust. Once it's dry, sand the area down with an abrasive pad and patch the hole with roofing cement. Before the cement dries, try to smooth it out with a putty knife as to not obstruct water flow. Bigger holes should be patched using a piece of metal flashing or vinyl depending on what your gutters are made of. Use a bit of plastic cement as an adhesive. After cleaning the area, simply spread a liberal amount of cement around the hole. Then, bend your piece of metal (known as flashing) to fit inside the gutter and press it firmly on top of the cement. You may want to set a brick on top of your fix until it sets. (Just be sure not to get any plastic cement on the brick or it will stick to your patch!)

Jane Tip: As you're cleaning your gutter, mark the areas you plan to fix with blue painter's tape, so you don't waste time looking for them later.

Sags

Your gutters are either held in place with brackets that are attached to the top of roof, or with spikes and ferrules driven through the gutter and to the side of (or slightly underneath) the roof. If you have the latter, the sag is likely caused by a loose screw, so check and replace them as necessary.

If you have brackets, make sure they are firmly in place, replacing any screws that may have worked themselves loose. Also, check the gutter to see if there hasn't been a buildup of gunk weighing the gutter down. If everything looks in check, hoist the bracket up with a pair of pliers, making the gutter straight and even. It's likely all it needed was a little boost!

A New Day?

Cleaning your gutters is the very definition of the word chore, but it has to be done to protect your home. If you leave them for too long, your gutters will become inefficient and will eventually need to be replaced altogether not to mention the damage that the surrounding areas of your home might incur. So, get it over with and reward yourself with something fun when you are finished!

Share this