Every homeowner should take care to clean and protect their gutters to prevent the damage that’s caused by overflowing, clogged up gutters. In fact, many homeowners know that they need gutters, but they don’t fully understand exactly what gutters do for the home.
Step by Step: Clean and Protect Your Gutters
Gutters carry the responsibility of collecting water from rainstorms or melting snow and ice and pushing it away from the home. In turn, they help your home by:
- Aiding in the prevent foundation cracks that can cause basement leaks and floods
- Protecting the shrubbery and landscaping around the foundation and causing erosion
- Prevention of roof leaks
Therefore, failure to perform properly, and regular, gutter maintenance can add up to a hefty repair bill!
How Often Should You Clean Your Gutters?
Gutter experts recommend checking your gutters at least every 4-6 weeks to see if they need to be cleaned. In fact, they will probably only need an actual cleaning about once per quarter. However, that 4 to 6-week periodic check-up can help you detect problems early—like a squirrel nest that can cause your gutters to overflow!
There are other variables at play here, as well. For example, a person who lives in an area of dense woods with constantly falling acorns will almost certainly need to clean his gutters more often than someone who lives in an open subdivision with few trees.
Other factors can be weather-related. If you live in a stormy area prone to windstorms or blizzards, you’ll want to be absolutely certain that you keep your gutter 100% clear at all times. If you live in an arid zone with little precipitation, however, you’ll have less worry over the weather factor.
Step by Step Guide to Cleaning Your Gutters
Grab Your Equipment
Sometimes, the hardest part of a job is getting started. Most homeowners dread—and avoid—the gutter-cleaning chore. Grab everything that you’ll need so you have no excuse or distraction to keep you from getting to the messy job at hand.
You’ll need to have: a hand trowel, heavy gloves, a trash bag, a hose, eye protection, and a strong ladder. An additional option is a wheelbarrow to tote your supplies and the bags of leaves.
I also recommend having a helper nearby. You will be working section to section as you clean, and it’s helpful to have a second pair of hands as you move along the gutter system and to help you secure the ladder.
Remove the Debris
There’s really no neat way to go about this task. Wear eye protection, as you don’t know what direction debris will fly as you remove it. Carefully scrape the insides of your gutters with your hand trowel and your be-gloved hands to remove the debris. You’ll likely find leaves, pine needles, nuts, and maybe even a birds nest or two. Remove it all, working one section of the gutter at a time. You can scoop all the waste into the bag as you go or drop it to the ground to have your helper bag it up for you.
Wash Out the Gutters
Break out that hose and wash out the gutters, watching to see that the water clears to the downspout. If you see any clogged sections, move the ladder back (yes, it’s extremely aggravating), and clean the section again. You are mimicking rainwater, so make sure that it’s flowing clean before you come off your ladder.
Clear the Downspouts
The downspouts are often a place where gutter clogs will happen. What makes it worse? You can’t just scoop in there and pull out the source of the clog. Your option here is to use the end of your hose to tunnel through to clear out the downspout. Keep the water running so you can see when it starts to trickle out. Keeping water running efficiently through the downspouts and away from your foundation is of the utmost importance.
Protect the Gutters
Gutter cleaning day is not a day that most homeowners look forward to. You can decrease the amount of time spent on cleaning them by adding a GutterBrush to your home. This is a large brush that you just place into your gutters. The brush bristles will keep the leaves, acorns, and squirrels blocked out of the gutter system. However, the bristles are specially sized to allow water runoff to happen without any blockages. You order the GutterBrush by diameter and length, so it’s a very minimal installation project for you.
Gutter Cleaning Safety Tips
- Make sure that you have a helper with you—the higher your home and the taller the ladder, the more dangerous a job this is.
- Always ensure that your ladder is locked in place securely. You’ll be moving it several times as you work the gutter sections and want to make certain to be secure.
- It’s not uncommon to find nests in the gutters and downspouts. In particular, you may encounter squirrels, mice, bees, wasps, and birds. While those nests do need to be removed to protect your home, make sure that the animals are not in the nest before you remove them.
- Wear a toolbelt to keep yourself hands-free as you climb. Put your hand trowel, safety glasses, and trash bag into the belt so you can use both hands climbing the ladder.
- Please wear the gloves as recommended—animals leave droppings in the gutters. Also, molds and mildews commonly build up in wet leaves. This is necessary for protection.
- Use eye protection. As you are scraping the debris, it can fling in any direction.
- Wear proper work shoes or boots. This isn’t a job to take on in flip-flops!
- Avoid over-reaching. Rather than stretching far from your position, which can topple your ladder, get down and move the ladder over as you work.
Following this gutter cleaning guide step by step is important to ensure both clean gutters and your personal safety. Once you’ve cleaned the gutters well, keep up with those 4 to 6-week inspections so that you can address clogs before they become a major concern.