It’s that time of year again. Most of the leaves have fallen from the trees and you need to clean rain gutters.
Why you need clean rain guttersIn a rainstorm, gutters route runoff from a very large surface, your home’s roof, to where it can drain away from the house. They protect your foundation and help prevent flooding in basements. That large surface becomes concentrated into a very specific space, your gutters and downspouts, so it better be working right.
For them to work properly, your gutters and downspouts must be clear of leaves and debris. If they aren’t, drain outlets will dam up and rainwater will fill the gutters, overflow, and eventually pull the gutters loose. Water that pools in troughs will rot wood gutters and rust sheet metal ones.
Plan to clean gutters at least twice a year—more often if the roof is directly beneath trees or you live in a region with frequent storms.
Rain flowing over windows, doors, and siding can rot fascia as well as door and window framing. It can erode the soil around your home and damage its foundation, and also cause a wet basement, mold, and mildew. Black mold can form, creating a dangerous health risk requiring costly mold removal.
How to clean your rain gutters: DIY
Think Safety First. Always use a solid, quality ladder to reach your gutters. Safety glasses and gloves are a good idea, too. And watch out for power lines.
It’s helpful to have a bucket for collecting debris and a dropcloth for protecting areas beneath the gutter.
Starting at a drain outlet at the low end of a gutter, use a narrow garden trowel to scoop out loose debris, working away from the drain outlet. It’s usually easiest to do this when the debris is slightly damp and pliable, not soggy or dried and encrusted.
Using an on-off high-pressure nozzle mounted at the end of a water hose, wash out each length of gutter, working toward the drain outlet. Try to avoid splattering mud all over your house. If necessary, use a stiff scrub brush to remove encrusted dirt.
If water doesn’t drain freely through the downspouts, try flushing the debris down them with a hose. If that doesn’t work, use a plumber’s auger (snake) to free and pull out the debris from the bottom or to push it through from the top.
There are lots of ways to do the cleaning. You can find inventions like tongs on an extension pole, shop vacuums with gutter nozzles or even a remote-controlled gutter-running robot. But most methods eventually involve getting on a ladder.
How to clean your rain gutters: hiring a handyman
You can hire a service to clean your gutters, but doing it yourself can save you $100 or more. But only take on this task if you can work safely from a ladder or the roof. If your roof is higher than a single story, you’re often better off hiring a pro. One way or the other don’t neglect this job because it can reduce water damage and moisture related problems. To find a qualified professional contact the National Rain Gutter Contractors Association (NRGCA).
Strainers and leaf-catching gutter systems
Strainers and leaf-catching gutter systems can be helpful, but most are not a complete solution. Debris eventually settles through them, and the screens must be removed to clean out the gutters. Also, some systems are very expensive. If you opt to buy a leaf-catching system, be sure it can be easily removed for cleaning.