How to Clean Rain Gutters & Downspouts


Most homeowners have to clean their gutters at least once a year, generally in the fall to prepare for winter snow fall, if they want to avoid the damage that water can do when flowing over the top of the gutters.  You may not realize it but not tending to clogged gutters can lead to costly damage to your siding, flowerbeds & landscaping, and even to the foundation of your home.  It’s definitely not worth the risk to just ignore the gutters – take the time for an annual cleaning as well as additional cleanings in between if you notice a gutter or downspout is clogged.  Generally you can tell if a gutter is clogged by watching for water overflow during a storm.

It’s important to note that over 35,000 people end up in the hospital annually as a result of falling off a ladder so use the proper safety precautions to ensure you’re not one of those unfortunate folks.  Be sure to use a safe and sturdy ladder.  It’s recommended that you select a four-legged step ladder when working on a single-story home, but for a 2-story home use an extension ladder.  In both situations its best if you use a ladder with a shelf on it capable of holding a 5 gallon bucket which will be used to collect the debris found in the gutters.  Secure the bucket to the shelf with a lanyard.

Be sure to start by cleaning any leaves or branches off of the roof itself.  This can be done using a rake or hose but should be done using rubber shoes and with caution when walking on the roof.  Once the roof is clear it’s time to move to the actual gutters.  It’s always recommended that you wear gloves for this job to protect your hands from animal droppings, which could be in the gutters, as well as any potentially sharp edges on the gutters.  One handy tool that can make this job easier is a plastic gutter scoop.  This tool fits the shape of the gutter perfectly and removes debris without damaging the bottom of the gutter, or the gutter seams.

The final step in this chore is to confirm that the downspouts are clear.  Once the gutters have been cleaned out, run water from the hose down the downspouts at maximum pressure.  If the water moves freely down then you’re good to go, but if you notice a backup at the top then you likely have a clog.  Try tapping on the outside of the downspout to remove the clog but if that doesn’t work you’ll have to remove it and flush it out.  You can always hire a professional to help with this as well.  If cleaning the gutters is taking you longer than an hour or so consider taking a break.  Many falls occur because people get dizzy after being up on ladders for too long.  It’s not worth the risk, grab a cup of coffee or a sandwich and then go back to it.

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