Cleaning your gutters: How to do it right

April 4, 2022

April showers may bring May flowers, but they can also cause issues if your gutters aren’t cleaned and maintained properly. Failing gutters can lead to damage to your home’s roof, walls, foundation, and landscaping. Clogged gutters can also become homes for rodents or other pests. These are all things you want to avoid, and all reasons to clean your gutters at least twice a year—ideally in the spring before heavy rains occur and in the fall to remove leaves and other debris.

Cleaning gutters from the ground

For those who don’t like ladders, there are a number of ways to clean gutters from the ground. The first is using a garden hose with an extension that reaches into the gutter. This can get messy as water, leaves, and twigs spill over the sides of the gutter. You can also use a wet/dry vacuum with an attachment to remove debris, but you’ll still need to flush the gutters and downspout with a hose. Cleaning gutters from the ground may take longer than traditional methods because you can’t see what you’re doing.

Cleaning gutters the old-fashioned way

The traditional way of cleaning gutters is from a ladder, ideally an extension ladder. This way, you can face the roof and hang buckets on it—one for debris and one for tools. To physically remove debris, use a trowel or gutter scoop. Then, use a hose with a spray nozzle or power washer to wash debris away, starting at the far end and working your way toward the downspout. It is very important to make sure you don’t spray underneath the shingles.

Don’t go on the roof

Under no circumstances do we recommend going on your roof to clean your gutters. If you’re leaning over to remove debris, you could lose your balance. It’s much safer to approach the gutter from a ladder or the ground.

Ladder safety is important

Cleaning gutters the traditional way can be a dangerous job. It’s important to keep ladder safety in mind. No matter what kind of ladder you use, you want to place it on solid, level ground whenever possible. You can also use a ladder stabilizer to keep an extension ladder in place. Never climb beyond the second to last step or rung, and don’t extend your reach. Whenever possible, have another person on the ground to steady the ladder.

Wear the proper attire

We recommend wearing safety glasses to prevent debris from getting into your eyes. It’s also important to wear a good pair of gloves. Ideally, you don’t want to remove debris when it is wet, but if you do, wear rubber gloves under your work gloves.

Make sure the downspouts are clear

When you’re flushing your gutters, if the water isn’t draining properly, check the downspout for clogs caused by debris. There are a number of ways to do this. First, turn the hose or pressure washer to full pressure and spray down the downspout. If that is unsuccessful, feed a hose up the downspout from the ground. You may need to use a plumber’s snake to break up the blockage if the first two methods are unsuccessful.

Check for gutter drainage and slope

Once all the debris has been removed from the gutters, flush them once more to check for proper water flow, drainage, and potential leaky seams. Standing water is an indication that the gutter is not properly sloped. Gutters should slope ¼ inch for every 10 feet toward the downspout. If your gutters are not sloped properly, you’ll want to detach the hangers to adjust them to the proper slope. You’ll also want to ensure the gutters are firmly secured to the house and that neither the gutters nor the downspouts are damaged.

Perform gutter maintenance

Once the gutters are clean, use gutter sealant to seal any leaky seams. You can also use a pressure washer to remove any dirt or mildew from the outside of the gutters. If you’re still not happy with how they look, you can touch them up with paint or make plans to replace them. To reduce gutter maintenance, you may want to consider adding gutter screens.

Look for problem spots

Examine your gutters for cracks or splits, paint damage and rust, sagging, water damage or water marks, and pools of water and mold or mildew. Replace cracked or split sections of gutter to prevent water from seeping into your home’s fascia, gutters, or foundation. Paint damage and rust is indicative of water damage that needs to be remedied. Standing water is a sign that gutters are clogged. Water damage beneath the gutters is evidence that gutters are leaking or overflowing. If your gutters are sagging, they are not draining properly and should be replaced.

Is it time for a change?

Now that you know how to clean and examine your gutters, the next thing to consider is if you need to repair or replace them. Replacement is typically your best option so that your gutters are all the same age and have a seamless look. Contact Keyprime to determine if gutter replacement is right for you and your home.

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