Rain Gutter Cleaning Basics

Cleaning the gutter

Rain gutter cleaning is right behind washing the windows on most homeowners’ lists of favorite chores. It’s messy, time-consuming and not a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon. But it is necessary. Gutters protect a home from water damage. Without them, water would drain over siding, windows and doors and right into the foundation. If you don’t clean the gutters, they’ll get clogged with leaves, acorns, pine needles and whatever else falls or blows onto the roof. Eventually, with the water flow interrupted or blocked, water will pour over the outside of the gutter and drain into the foundation. If it runs over the back of the gutter it will warp the paint and rot the wood soffit. Eventually, all that debris turns to sludge, which provides a nice home for insects and can break down metal gutters.

Rain Gutter Cleaning Basics: Tools

  • Extension ladder
  • Work gloves
  • Hand trowel (or a special “gutter scoop” if you want to be fancy)
  • Bucket
  • Gutter sealant
  • Plumber’s snake

Rain Gutter Cleaning Basics: How

First, you’ll need a ladder. An extension ladder will provide the best support and stability for gutter cleaning. Do small sections at a time. Use the hand trowel and a bucket to remove debris from the gutter. Then, move the ladder over a few feet. Don’t try to stretch. It’s not worth falling off a ladder and getting hurt – plus, you’ll probably end up wearing all the stuff that was in the gutter. As you move along, check for gaps in the joints. Most can be fixed by pushing the joints together and sealing them inside with gutter sealant.

After the gunk is gone, flush the gutters with a garden hose and make sure there are no clogs in the elbow of the gutters (curved part of downspout). If debris is caught in the elbow or downspout, use a plumber’s snake to get it out. Using a bent wire hanger might allow you to pull enough debris out of the elbow so you can flush out the rest.

Rain Gutter Cleaning Basics: When

Clean the gutters every spring and late fall. If you live in a dry climate, you might only have to worry about rain gutter cleaning on a yearly basis. Likewise, if you are in a wet and windy climate or live near a lot of trees, adding a third rain gutter cleaning would be beneficial.

If you are uncomfortable on a ladder, hire a professional. Consider a product like gutter guards, which will keep most debris out of the gutters in the first place. Cleaning the gutters may not be a fun job, but the two-hour time investment is well worth saving your house from water damage.

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