Gutters play an essential role in protecting your home. By catching the runoff from your roof and diverting it away from your house, they protect your siding, doors, windows, and foundation from damage and help keep your basement from filling up with water. This is especially important in the winter to prevent ice buildup on driveways and walkways which could lead to a dangerous fall.
However, for gutters to do their job, they need to be clear of leaves, dirt, debris, and anything else that may accumulate. Water may be unable to drain and fill up clogged gutters, which will eventually pull them loose. Sitting water can also rot gutters made of wood and rust ones made of sheet metal.
To help keep your gutters in the best condition possible, we have compiled a comprehensive guide to gutter cleaning that walks you through every step of the process.
While a variety of tools can clean gutters, we recommend using the following:
Acquire a garden hose equipped with a pistol-grip trigger spray nozzle, which lets you adjust the pressure of the water using one hand. Another benefit of this nozzle is that you can easily hang it over the gutter’s front edge while using the gutter scoop or moving the ladder. You can find this kind of spray nozzle at all hardware stores.
Scooping is generally the most effective way to remove debris from gutters. We recommend using a plastic scooping tool, available at most hardware stores. This tool is particularly useful due to the thin front scooping edge that has the same shape as the gutter trough’s bottom. This feature makes it easy to scoop out debris of any size.
Avoid using scooping tools made of metal, as they can damage or scratch the gutter bottom as well as the seams.
Bucket and Dropcloth
In some instances, it’s useful to have a bucket on hand for collecting debris. You may also want to protect areas below the gutters with a dropcloth, especially over expensive hardscaping and landscaping.
How to Clean Gutters
There is a four-step process to clearing your gutters:
- Clean the roof first. Before tackling the gutters, first remove the debris from your roof using a rake or leaf blower. If you don’t, the next rainfall will wash the debris into your clean gutters. Debris on the roof can also cause water to dam up in valleys, which can lead to leaks or erosion.
- Remove gutter debris. Working your way from the low end of the gutter, start scooping out debris using a gutter scoop or trowel. This will work best if the debris is moderately damp, but not soggy or completely dry. Reduce the amount of cleanup you’ll have to do by scooping the debris into a bucket or other container.
- Hose out the gutters. Using a water hose with a high-pressure nozzle attached, wash out your gutters. Start at the high end and work toward the outlet. This job could be messy, so try not to splatter debris on your house. If the hose has trouble removing encrusted dirt, try removing the dirt with a stiff scrub brush.
- Clear out the downspouts. Ensure your downspouts are clear by running water down them at full pressure. If you see water backing up, you have a clog. First, try unclogging the drainpipe by tapping it on its side. If this doesn’t fix the problem, you may have to remove the downspout from the wall and try flushing it from the bottom. If you have a clog and the downspout is attached to an underground drain, disconnect the bottom first. Otherwise, the clog will probably move to the underground drain.
Just like with any other project, safety should come first:
1. Be Careful With Your Ladder
When attempting to ascend this notoriously wobbly structure, take the following precautions:
- Notify someone. Let someone know you’ll be working with a ladder.
- Use a spotter. Having a friend or family member keep an eye on you and reinforce your ladder as needed.
- Use a safe ladder. The ladder you use should be sturdy and ideally have a shelf strong enough to support a five-gallon bucket for collecting debris. Make sure to secure the bucket using a lanyard.
- Use the right type of ladder. If you’re working on a one-story house, a stepladder will suffice, but you’ll need an extension ladder for homes with two or more stories. If you have to lean an extension ladder against your gutters, you should protect the gutter by sticking a short 2″ x 4″ inside.
Stay balanced. When standing on your ladder, always keep your hips between the two rails and don’t lean over the sides. Make sure to stay off the top two rungs.
- Avoid orchard ladders. As these only have three legs, it’s easy to lose your balance.
- Avoid wooden ladders. These ladders also tend to be wobbly.
- Use a fiberglass ladder if working for shorter periods. Fiberglass ladders are the strongest ladders available, but they’re also quite heavy. Use these only if you’re working for shorter intervals, as moving them around can cause muscle fatigue.
- Use an aluminum ladder for longer periods. These ladders are the second-strongest option and are considerably lighter than fiberglass. If working for long hours, these ladders are less likely to fatigue you.
- Examine your ladder. Before climbing your ladder, inspect it for dents or defects. Also, tighten up any bolts or screws that are loose.
- Extend the ladder fully. The extension-hinge arms of your ladder should be locked in place.
2. Use Hand Protection
Sticking your bare hands in gutters will expose you to various risks, so make sure to wear heavy work gloves. Wearing gloves can improve your safety and efficiency while cleaning:
- Gloves can prevent infection. Wear gloves to protect your hands against bacteria in bird and squirrel feces, which can be present in the rotting debris.
- Gloves also prevent cuts. Gloves will also keep you from cutting yourself on sheet metal screws and sharp metal.
- Consider cotton gloves. Cotton soaks up dirty water that can expose your skin to harmful bacteria.
- Avoid leather gloves. It is more difficult to maneuver your fingers in leather gloves, and they also shrink when they dry.
- Avoid rubber gloves. Metal shards can easily puncture this material.
- Thick, suede gloves are ideal. This material is better than cotton, rubber or thin leather gloves.
3. Use Eye Protection
It’s not just your hands that are vulnerable, but also your eyes — birds, rats, bees, and wasps can quickly come out of gutters while you’re unclogging them. Make sure to wear goggles or other eye protection.
4. Wear Rubber Shoes
If your roof is not too steep and you feel comfortable walking on it, this can be easier than working with a ladder. If you choose to do this, it’s best to wear rubber-soled shoes, which are most effective at preventing slips and falls.
However, working on the roof is only advisable in very safe conditions. Never work on the roof if it’s windy, wet or icy, and avoid walking on rooftops in the morning, when they tend to be moister. Wait until late morning or early afternoon, when the sun has dried up the moisture.
5. Be Aware of Power Line Dangers
If there’s a power line cable hanging down from a power pole to the roof where you’re cleaning, closely inspect where the cable connects to the roof. Make sure the protective insulation for the wires hasn’t worn away. If the cable looks damaged, do not try to fix it yourself. Instead, hire a professional to repair it.
If you notice an electrical problem, it’s best to wait until you can get it repaired before attempting to clean your gutters — especially if it’s raining.
How to Maintain Rain Gutters
In addition to cleaning out your gutters twice a year, it’s also important to inspect the gutters themselves and, if necessary, perform some maintenance. Here are a few things to routinely check:
1. Inspect the Spikes
Gutter spikes are meant to go through the gutters and fascia boards and then into the rafters behind them. However, it’s common for these spikes to completely miss the rafters, due to the gradual movement of the spikes over the years. If the spikes are not able to be re-secured, it may be time for new gutters installed with hidden hangers.
2. Check the Gutter Slope
Over time, it’s possible that houses settle in a way that causes the gutters’ slope to be ineffective. Test the slope by running water through the gutters. If drainage is slow or water is sitting after a period of time, it is time to replace that gutter.
3. Ensure Water’s Running Away From Your House
Make sure the water coming out of your downspouts isn’t accumulating around your home’s foundation.
If it is, you can attach downspout extenders so the water hits the ground farther from your house. You can also achieve this with splash blocks, which are slightly sloped concrete objects that carry away the water coming out of the downspout.
If your leader pipe drains into an underground pipe system that carries the water away from your home’s foundation, make sure water isn’t overflowing at the base of the house where the downspout meets your ground pipe. If you see overflow, the pipe system might have gotten crushed or clogged, which means it needs maintenance. Find out where the underground pipes drain to — look at the curb, or if your yard has a decreasing slope, the pipes may run in that direction toward a pit. You can also run water through your gutters, the drain spout, and the underground system to test if everything is working properly.
If you live in a rainy region, consider having your downspouts empty into a dry well. This well should be a hole that measures three feet deep and two to four feet wide. You can also use a 55-gallon drum, but make sure to remove both ends, puncture it, bury it and then fill it up with rocks. You should also confirm this complies with local building regulations.
4. Check the Condition of Your Gutters
Inspect your gutters for peeling paint, flaking, rust and ensure that they are secured tightly to the fascia board. The fascia boards themselves should also be examined to make sure they have no dry rot or other issues. If so, you will need to replace them.
You should also examine your gutters for any sources of leaks, such as holes or cracked caulking. Remove the old caulking with an old chisel and then dry the area. Once dry, apply bead silicon sealing to the problem area. It’s important to get this done before it gets too cold, as frozen water will only make the cracks worse.
5. Inspect the Downspouts
The downspouts may be attached with rivets or 1/4″ zip screws. It’s not uncommon for them to come loose or completely fall out. If this happens, all you need is a rivet gun or a 1/4″ bit to shore up your downspouts, which you can buy at a hardware store.
6. Install Gutter Covers
Gutter covers are a great way to prevent clogging and overflow. If you decide to do this, early Fall or Spring is the ideal time. They are an excellent long term investment and will add value to your home and prevent potential damage to your home while keeping you safely on the ground instead of on a ladder.
When to Hire a Gutter Cleaning Service
Although many homeowners manage to clean their gutters without much trouble, there are several cases when it’s better to hire a professional, such as:
- Your home has two or more stories
- Your ladder doesn’t reach your gutters
- You can’t stabilize your ladder on the ground
- Unclogging your gutter is proving to be more of a challenge than you expected
- You realize your gutters are in serious need of repair
If any of the above situations apply — or if you’re feeling uncomfortable for any reason — don’t hesitate to contact a professional gutter cleaning service.
You should clean your gutters at least two times a year: once in the spring and once in the fall. If your roof is directly under trees or you live in a place where storms are frequent, you should clean them even more often.
Although the main reason for gutter cleaning is to prevent water damage from overflowing gutters, it is also good for lowering staining and mold on the exterior of the house, which debris in the gutters can accelerate.
Let Us Clean Your Gutters
If you live in Central Pennsylvania and have gutter cleaning needs, consider yourself lucky to have All Season Gutters right down the road. By letting us clean your gutters, you’ll save yourself lots of time, eliminate the risk of personal injury and can rest assured we have thoroughly cleaned your gutters to the highest professional standards.
All Season Gutters is a locally owned company that has been proudly serving our region for over 13 years. It is our mission to always provide our customers with the highest-quality service and materials.
In addition to cleaning gutters, we also perform gutter installations. Our gutters, which are seamless and made of the thickest aluminum, provide the following benefits:
- They have enhanced durability.
- They experience no leaks.
- Their baked-on enamel finish never needs painting.
- They have a customizable design.
- They’re available in various colors and sizes.
- They can boost your home’s curb appeal.
- We measure them to fit your home perfectly.
- We can usually complete the installations in one day.
- They protect your home’s beauty and landscaping.
Contact us here to receive a free estimate. We look forward to your business!