Rain Gutter Cleaning & Maintenance
A small garden trowel makes scooping debris out of gutters an easier job. Wear gloves to protect your hands from muck, sharp metal, and sheet metal screws.
In This Article:
How to Clean Rain Gutters
How to Maintain Rain Gutters
Expert advice on how to clean rain gutters, with helpful gutter maintenance tips and diagrams
During a rainstorm, gutters route runoff from a very large surface—a home’s roof—to where it can drain away from the house. By doing so, they protect siding, windows, doors, and foundations from water damage and help prevent flooding in basements
How to Clean Rain Gutters
To do their job, gutters and downspouts must be clear of leaves and debris. If they aren’t, drain outlets will dam up and rainwater will fill the gutters, overflow, and eventually pull the gutters loose. Water that pools in troughs will rot wood gutters and rust sheet-metal ones.
Work from a sturdy ladder and wear gloves to protect your hands from sharp metal and sheet metal screws.
Work from a sturdy ladder extended above the eaves, and wear gloves to protect your hands from sharp metal and sheet metal screws.
You can hire a service to clean your gutters, but doing it yourself can save you $100 or more. Plan to clean gutters at least twice a year—more often if the roof is directly beneath trees or you live in a region with frequent storms. But only take on this task if you can work safely from a ladder or the roof. If your roof is higher than a single story, you’re better off hiring a gutter-cleaning pro.
Choose a sturdy ladder, and place it on a firm, level base. A tall stepladder can be easier to use than an extension ladder. If you must lean an extension ladder against a gutter, protect the gutter by placing a short piece of 2 by 4 inside it. Stand on the ladder with your hips between the rails, and don’t lean out over the sides. Never stand on the top two rungs.
If you’re comfortable working from the rooftop and your roof has a very low pitch, this can be easier than working from a ladder. But only do this under extremely safe conditions. Never work on the roof in wet, icy, or windy conditions. Wear non-slip shoes, and never lean over the edge or work near power lines.
When cleaning gutters, wear heavy work gloves to protect your hands since gutters often have sharp metal parts or screw points sticking out into their troughs. Also wear safety glasses or goggles. In some situations, it’s helpful to have a bucket for collecting debris and a dropcloth for protecting areas beneath the gutter.
Before you begin, rake the leaves and debris off of the roof so the next heavy rain doesn’t wash it down into the gutters, filling them up again.
The conventional method for cleaning gutters is discussed below. A method sometimes used by home handymen on low-sloped roofs is to blow dry debris out of gutters with a leaf blower. If you use this method, wear goggles and a dust mask, and
be extremely careful when working on top of the roof—this is dangerous!
Plastic scoop makes cleaning gutters an easier job.
Leaf-catching gutter systems can be helpful, but most are not a complete solution. Debris eventually settles through them, and the screens must be removed to clean out the gutters.
Also, some systems are very expensive. If you opt to buy a leaf-catching system, be sure it can be easily removed for cleaning. For more about these, see How to Buy Gutter Guards & Leaf Catchers.
To clean gutters:
1 Scoop out loose debris. Starting at a drain outlet at the low end of a gutter, use a narrow garden trowel to scoop out loose debris, working away from the drain outlet. It’s usually easiest to do this when the debris is slightly damp and pliable, not soggy or dried and encrusted. To minimize cleanup later, you can scoop the debris into a plastic bucket.
2 Blast out the gutters with a hose. Using an on-off high-pressure nozzle mounted at the end of a water hose, wash out each length of gutter, working toward
3 Clear obstructions in drainpipes. If water doesn’t drain freely through the drainpipes, try flushing the debris down them with a hose. If that doesn’t work, use a plumber’s auger (snake) to free and pull out the debris from the bottom or, in some situations, to push it through from the top.
How to Maintain Rain Gutters
Inspect and clear gutters in both spring and autumn. You also may have to loosen dirt that has blown into the gutters and scrub them with a stiff brush. Flushing gutters with a stream of water from a hose will clear material that has become lodged in the eaves troughs and downspouts.
The slope of gutters may need to be adjusted from time to time to keep water moving toward downspouts. Run water through them, and, if they drain slowly, reposition them so that they slope toward the downspouts at a rate of 1/4 inch for every 10 feet.
Be sure your downspouts expel water well away from your house. If necessary, add downspout extenders to carry the water away (see How to Fix Downspouts That Pool Runoff Water). Also consider concrete or plastic splash blocks, which are slightly sloped and extend away from the house at least 4 feet.
If your climate delivers abundant rainfall, you may want to have your downspouts run into a dry well. The well should be a hole 2 to 4 feet wide and 3 feet deep or a 55-gallon drum, with both ends removed and filled with rocks, that you’ve buried and punctured with holes. Underground drainage pipes should slope to the dry well, which will effectively keep water away from the house’s foundation. Check local building codes before installing.
Also check downspouts for rust, flaking, or peeling paint, plus leaks, and make sure they are affixed tightly against the fascia boards. Check the fascia boards themselves for dry rot or other damage, and, if need be, replace them with lumber treated with wood preservative that is finished to match the other boards.
How To – Sealing Your Gutter Seams to Cure Leaks
Proper maintenance of your gutters and downspouts is important to prevent basement flooding or erosion around your foundation.
A small leak in your gutters or improperly placed downspouts can allow hundreds of gallons of water to enter your basement in a single heavy storm. And the worst part about having a broken gutter is that you don’t realize it until its too late.
During the first spring rainfalls I noticed that one of the corners of our front gutter was leaking. The problem was not that bad but there was potential that water could run down the wall and cause wood rot. So this is one of my first projects this spring… Getting out on the ladder and fixing the gutters.
Gutters are normally made of Aluminum but some gutters are vinyl and many years ago if you have an old home you may find your gutters are made of galvanized steel.
No matter what the material that makes up your gutter system it is important that at every seam a sealer is applied to prevent leaking.
Our gutters are aluminum that were extruded or formed on site by a contractor out of a roll of aluminum sheet. This is a really nice method because you can span long distances without center seams. Unfortunately these gutters are still joined at any corner and they have end caps that are riveted on and sealed.
Although we do have a lot of trees in our yard none of them are a problem when it comes to leaves filling our gutters in the fall but even so and probably because i grew up in a home where leaves were a serious problem I like to inspect my gutters once a year.
To inspect your gutters you will need a ladder that you can rest on the gutter and it should extend at least a couple feet taller if you expect to get up on the roof. You never want to be crawling off the ladder on to the roof you should always have one hand on the ladder as you put your feet on the roof decking.
When you inspect your gutters you should look for any potential clogs. You should look for more then average granules coming off the shingles and you should make sure they are secured tightly to the fascia board.
Once their physical condition is verified you want to look at your seams and end caps to make sure they are sealed correctly.
If your contractor sealed your gutters you will probably see what looks like black caulking covering the seams. If any of it has broken away or if you see cracks or missing spots this is where your problem of leaks is occurring.
Once you know where the problem is the cure is pretty simple.
Gutter sealer comes in squeezable or in calking gun tubes and the price can run you from about $5 to $10 depending on the amount and quality.
I like to use a squeezable tube for gutter sealer because it is easier to handle and you can normally get the tube right inside the gutter even if there is a gutter hanger clip near the seam.
First clean the area of any debris and if it is wet you need to make sure it is dry before applying the sealer.
Some sealer is water based and may do ok in light moisture conditions but it is best if you check the gutter, clean the debris and if its wet wait for a hot day so it will be completely dry.
Squeeze a bead of sealer along the seam joint and then smooth the sealer to allow easy flow of water through the gutter. You don’t want to cause a restriction.
If there is a gap in the joint you should use your cardboard or plastic spreader to force sealer into the joint.
If you have damage to an area of your gutter you can also use sealer and a piece of like metal to form a patch.
If your gutter is aluminum use a piece of a soda can. If it is steel you can find a coffee can that can be cut with tin snips.
NEVER mix metal types or you will definitely end up with dissimilar metal corrosion. This happens when metals of different types are placed together. If you can not find suitable scrap metal then use plastic and redo your repair when you can.
Well there really isn’t much more to know about sealing gutters other then it can get a little messy so wear some rubber gloves or expect to be cleaning your hands with gasoline on a rag.