If you’ve ever visited a home where the gutters were left unattended through the rainy season, you know how important it is to clean these critical drainage devices. Leaving gutters full of leaves and muck can lead to water pooling in them, which can cause roof damage, rot the fascia behind the gutters and in some cases even seep down to your home’s foundation and cause problems.
Gutter cleaning is not glamorous. You’ll get dirty, you’ll probably get wet and you’ll have to drag a ladder around the entire perimeter of your home, but that’s the price you pay for home ownership. At least you only have to do it twice a year!
Tools of the Trade
A large part of making this job only minimally unpleasant is having the right tools. Those tools are:
• A good ladder, ideally one with bump stops that let you set your distance from the roof
• A good pair of waterproof gloves, ideally some with gaiters
• A hose long enough to comfortably reach the roof, ideally with a spray nozzle that allows you to regulate pressure
• A bucket and drop-cloth — the larger the cloth the better
• A hand trowel for extra credit
Place your drop cloth along the first stretch of your home’s perimeter where you’ll clean the gutters. Begin at one end by setting up your ladder. Before you begin, it might be helpful to remove loose debris from your roof that will otherwise likely end up in the gutter. This article doesn’t cover the specifics of cleaning your roof, but suffice it to say, consider your safety. Don’t just hop up there with a shop-vac and go to town — use the proper equipment, and understand how to access your roof without hurting yourself.
Un-Gunk Your Gutters
With the prep work done, it’s time to do the job you came to do. You’ll want to work along straight stretches of gutter, collecting loose debris by hand and using your trowel to scoop out sediment that has gathered in the bottom of the gutter. Allow the downspout sections of the gutter to serve as dividers as you work along a given section. When you have a section relatively clean, run the hose to push any remaining loose material into the downspout.
Check to see that material is exiting the downspout freely and not clogging it. You may encounter very densely packed debris in parts of your gutter system depending on where you live and the type of plants around your home. Just pull the material clogging the downspout out of the way and toss it in your bucket. Rinse, repeat and test the downspout to make sure water and debris are exiting at the bottom as planned.
With a little patience, you’ll be able to circle the house safely and dispatch this job until another six months has passed. Or, until your eldest child is old enough to climb a ladder and operate a hose, at which point it becomes their responsibility to perform this task!
Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington