Clean Your Gutters Before Winter — Here’s How and Why!
Since the last leaves of autumn will soon be off the trees, it’s time to move cleaning rain gutters to the top of your winter prep to-do list. Follow these steps to get the job done.
What can happen when you don’t clean your gutters? They can become blocked. Blocked gutters and downspouts won’t channel rainwater away from your home, as designed. When that happens, it can lead to:
- Falling gutters
- Cracked foundation
- Wood rot
Best Time to Clean
Gutters are one of those things you typically don’t think about unless there’s a problem. Cleaning them is a chore that should be done at least once per year — more often if your home sits beneath a lot of trees that shed leaves and other debris. Don’t wait until the situation is out of hand or for the rainy season to start to take action — be proactive. If you’re going to tackle the task yourself, do it during a dry time of year, as it’s much easier to clean gutters when the debris is dry.
Tools You’ll Need
Prepare before you head outside by gathering the tools you’ll need before you start:
- Sturdy ladder
- Buckets with S-hooks OR handled plastic bags
- Safety glasses or goggles
- Work gloves
- Handled scoop or trowel
- Hose with spray nozzle
- Screwdriver (to remove and reattach downspout if it runs below ground)
- OPTIONAL: Plumber’s snake for stubborn downspout clogs.
Although cleaning gutters is a simple concept, the task can be quite dangerous if you neglect to take precautions. Remember, if you’re unsure about anything, it’s best to call a professional. Here are safety measures to keep in mind:
- Your ladder should be sturdy and planted firmly on level ground. For homes that have two stories, an extension ladder might be necessary.
- Avoid carrying sharp tools or keeping sharp objects inside your pockets when climbing the ladder. Instead, place the tools in a bucket or handled bag and carry it up the ladder, hooking the container to the top with an S-hook or another similar object.
- Wear sturdy shoes that will protect your feet.
- Protect your eyes from loose debris with safety glasses or goggles.
- Do not work near power lines. If your roof is near power lines, hire a professional instead.
Cleaning the Gutters
This process can vary depending on the situation, but here are the basic steps for cleaning gutters:
1. Place your ladder near a downspout and cover the ground with a tarp under the section of gutter you’ll be cleaning.
2. Hang your bucket of tools and an empty bucket to the top of your ladder. Wearing gloves and using a trowel, remove any large debris in the gutter and put it in the empty bucket. Work your way toward the opposite end (away from the downspout).
3. Once you’ve made your way to the opposite end, bring a hose equipped with a spray nozzle up the ladder with you and use it to flush out any remaining small debris and dirt. The water and small debris should drain down the spout at the opposite end.
4. If the water has any issues draining, check for clogs in the downspout strainer at the top of the spout. Rinse it out if necessary.
5. If the downspout itself is clogged, start working on it at ground level, from the bottom of the spout. For downspouts that run underground, remove it from the pipe as necessary.
6. Insert the hose into the spout with the spray nozzle at full pressure and spray it up into the spout. Only turn on the water after it is in place inside the spout. This should remove the blockage. If it does not, consider inserting a plumber’s snake tool into the spout from the bottom.
7. Reattach any pieces that were removed and tighten any pieces that were loosened to work on the downspout.
8. Use the hose to flush out the gutters a final time.
After the work has been completed, don’t forget to double check your work on the next rainy day. Grab an umbrella and inspect the gutters and spouts to make sure they are functioning as they should.
If all of this doesn’t sound like a task you want to do, simply call in a professional. To find a good company, look for a business that is experienced, and verify that they are fully licensed, bonded and insured. Don’t just take their word for it — look it up on your state’s licensing board for contractors.