Fall Gutter Cleaning Guide

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Oct 27, 2009 | Steve Graham

Fall brings a slew of advertisements for gutter cleaning services and new gutter guards to keep leaves out of your gutters. If you can stand on a ladder and get your hands a little dirty, save money: just use those ads as a reminder to do your own gutter cleaning. Cleaning your gutter is a critical part of home winterization.  Clogged, overflowing gutters will run off water into the foundation (bad news!), and also could come loose from the house.

As long as you clean your gutters regularly at least twice a year, it's a relatively quick and simple job. Here's a DIY gutter cleaning guide.

Preparation for Cleaning Gutters

Of course, it's time for the standard ladder safety disclaimer: Put it on a flat spot, don't use the top step, etc. You should also wear work gloves to protect your hands from gutter muck and loose nails, and to maintain a firm grip on the ladder. Finally, put your tools - a garden trowel, rags, bags and maybe a hammer and nails - in a bucket hanging from your ladder. That will help you find everything, and avoid a jab from the trowel in your pocket if you fall off the ladder while cleaning gutters.

Roof Gutter Cleaning the Easy Way

The easiest, cleanest way to clear out leaves and debris is to scoop them all out with a small trowel and either bag the stuff or toss it in the yard to rake up later. Wash out stubborn, caked-on gutter debris with your hose. Some expensive gutter cleaning tools are available, but none work better than a garden trowel. The other easiest way to clean your gutter is to hire a roofer to do it.

Gutter Inspection

While you have the hose up there, spray water along the gutter and into the gutter downspout to make sure it is flowing properly. If there is any standing water, you'll need to adjust the angle of your gutters. If the downspout is plugged, push an auger or plumber's snake into the opening. At the same time, check for loose fasteners or gaps in the gutters. Either keep a hammer and extra nails handy or mark the trouble spots with colored electric tape to easily find them again later.

Vowing "Never Again" to Cleaning Gutter

After two hours of gutter cleaning, you might be cursing us for telling you to do it yourself, and looking up those guards ads so you never have to clean your gutters again. Gutter Helmet and similar products can be quite expensive, and typically must be professionally installed. Some homeowners are really happy with gutter covers that keep leaves and other items out of gutters. However, the covers are not a perfect solution for every home.

They may overflow in heavy rain if the smaller gap can't handle the flow. They also may not shield the gutter from all debris. Small seeds and other matter might still get into the gutter and clog the downspout, but a gutter with only a small opening is now harder to clean. Several other products are available for screening debris. Most keep leaves out of the downspout, but still need to be cleared at least twice a year.

Gutter cleaning is a dirty job but someone's gotta do it -- and it's probably you. 

Updated September 6, 2018.

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