Cleaning your gutters is one of those dreaded home maintenance tasks that a lot of people put off month after month. It’s usually a dirty job, you’re up and down a ladder all day, and you’ll probably end up wet from using a hose. If you don’t keep up with this critical maintenance though, it can lead to serious trouble! When gutters fill up with leaves and other debris, water can actually damage the roofing and the area behind the gutters. As water pours over the gutters instead of going cleanly down the spouts, this can mean water is getting to your foundation, and possibly into your basement or crawlspace. This overflow can also make any garden beds up by the house wash out.
When to Start Cleaning Gutters
The general recommendation is to clean out your gutters at least twice a year – once in the spring and again in the fall. Although if your house has a lot of trees nearby then you may want to clean them more often, maybe as much as every month or every other month. More frequent cleanings will be less of a chore and go faster than waiting for them to be totally clogged up.
It’s definitely best to tackle cleaning out you gutters when it hasn’t rained in a few days, otherwise the job will be much messier from scooping out waterlogged leaves and muck.
Don’t attempt to clean your gutters from the roof. You’d be turning this chore into a needlessly dangerous proposition. A ladder is going to be your best bet, but don’t reach out further than is safe to do – make sure to keep your waist between the rails of the ladder. Be careful when you move the ladder and don’t get into a rush, make sure that you have secure footing before climbing up.
If you’re using an extension ladder, it’s a good idea to get what’s called standoff stabilizers. These will prevent the ladder from lying on the gutters themselves, which can cause damage and help you not need to replace your gutters due to just physical damage.
For collecting the debris (rather than leaving it scattered about your property), you can lay out a tarp underneath your gutters, and just move it along with you when you move the ladder.
Get That Gunk Out!
Using your hands with a pair good gloves, scoop out the leaves and sediment, starting at the downspout. When you’ve cleaned as much as you safely can in one spot, move the ladder on and repeat the process all the way around your house. Once you’ve gotten everything that you can with your hands, use a hose to flush the finer debris, starting at the end opposite the downspout. Let it run for a minute, and ensure that water is coming cleanly through the spout. If it’s just trickling, you know you still have a clog. In that case, run the hose at high pressure right into the top of the downspout to clear it out.
There are some products out there that help you keep some of the physical material and debris out of your gutters that tend to clog them frequently. However, very few of these are also maintenance free, so be prepared to do a little bit of cleaning doing no matter what option you choose.