Keeping your gutters clean is the best way to ensure they last for years to come and continue to protect your home. When it’s time to clean the gutters, familiarize yourself with the right tools for the job, how to perform the chore safely, and what you can do to reduce problems in the future.
1. Grab the right tools for the job.
Before you climb a ladder, take some time to gather the right tools. It’ll make the project less tedious and more efficient. You should have the following on hand...
Gloves: Gloves will protect your hands from any metal pieces, like screws, nails, broken glass, or other hazardous material hiding among the leaves and debris. They’ll also keep your hands clean of the inevitable dirt and grime.
Ladder: A tall stepladder has more stability than an extension ladder. If you only have an extension ladder, have someone hold the bottom to steady it.
Trowel or scoop shovel: A handheld scooping implement will greatly increase the efficiency of the project, as well as keeping your hands free of dirt and injury.
Goggles: A pair of safety goggles will protect your eyes from any flying objects, like sharp debris coming out of the gutter or insects.
Rake or broom: Bring a rake on top of the roof to remove any leaves and debris that haven’t yet been pushed into the gutters.
Garbage bag: Scoop the debris directly into a garbage bag to make the process much easier.
Garden hose: Make sure a garden hose is long enough to accompany you up the ladder. After you’ve cleared out all the muck and debris, flush the gutters with water.
2. Now that you have the right tools, be safe!
Performing any task on the roof or on top of a ladder is a dangerous business. If there’s another family member or friend around, have them hold the base of the ladder.
Pro Tip: Put a 2 x 4 in the gutter trough to protect it from the force of the ladder leaning against it.
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3. Clean the gutters at least twice a year.
Regularly cleaning the gutters makes them last much longer and helps prevent ice dams, pooled water, and excessive weight from straining the system.
We suggest cleaning gutters once in the spring and once in the fall. If you can only force yourself to inspect the system once a year, try and do it before any serious snow falls.
Large amounts of fallen leaves will quickly plug up gutters and downspouts. Get up on the roof to remove them before winter makes the task inadvisable.
4. Inspect the gutters after they've been cleaned.
Once you’ve removed all the leaves and dirt, check the support nails and the spikes that go through the gutter, fascia, and into the rafter. Oftentimes, the added weight of clogged gutters will pull these nails out of place, which creates opportunities for water to erode parts of the roof system and cause leaks.
Check for any cracks in caulking along the seams. If you notice any compromised caulking, use a chisel or flat-nosed screwdriver to scrape it away. Allow the area to dry, then apply new caulking to keep water from getting behind the gutters.
Look for any loose screws or rivets that need to be tightened along the downspout, too. Use a screwdriver or rivet gun to secure them back into place.
5. If your house is two stories or more, consider hiring a professional.
If you have a particularly large house and gutter system, or it’s high off the ground, it’s never a bad idea to hire a professional. You’ll stay safe and have the peace of mind knowing the job was done well.
And while there are gutter attachments to help keep debris out of the system, they still need to be cleaned by being removed and rinsed. If you feel nervous about the project, hire someone with the tools and manpower to get the job done right.