Cleaning house guttering does not rate high on the list of things that most of us want to do on a Saturday afternoon. Even a visit to the dentist may sound more fun. However, this task is necessary.
Erie Insurance knows well the problems caused by clogged guttering, including damage to roofing, foundation, siding, landscaping, and indoor areas. Angie’s List includes damage to the fascia boards that hold up the gutter system. Clean guttering will keep mosquitos away and keep indoor air mold-free.
Clean guttering will also prevent ice dams in the winter. Ice dams are ridges of ice that formulate at the edge of a roof. Whenever ice dams exist, melting snow cannot drain off the roof. Dammed up water at that location can leak into a home and cause damage to ceilings, walls, insulation, and to other places.
Water that comes from overflowing guttering and from rooftops beats the soil around a home’s foundation, deteriorating soil and grass. The soil next to the home becomes lower than the soil further out, causing water to flow toward the home.
Foundation erosion results from constant exposure to water that remains next to the base of a structure. Once the foundation is eroded, water can get into the walls. Damp walls create mold, damp air, and a flooded basement.
Clean guttering allows rooftop water to proceed to the downspout and away from the building’s foundation. But dirt and debris-filled guttering won’t let gutter water flow like it should. Guttering that is not clean will overflow and cause the same problems that having no guttering system would cause.
There are several ways to clean guttering. You’ll want to see how packed in yours is before you decide on a cleaning method. That will determine which cleaning method you choose.
Weather and age cause soil to settle. But overflowing guttering and rooftop runoff dig into dirt at the home’s base, creating a water-collecting trench. So, once you clean your guttering, you’ll want to fill in that trench with topsoil.
Then you’ll want to build up that area so that water will run away from your home instead of toward it. Use crushed stone or topsoil. A slope of one inch per foot for two or three feet out from the house will create a nice barrier.
In addition to building a sloped landscape away from your home, you may also want to dig a U-shaped trench if property slopes toward your house. Also, a dry well would prevent pooling of water.
What you need
You’ll need a sturdy extension ladder, and you would appreciate having a ladder stabilizer for the top of the ladder to protect you and the guttering. You’ll need a garbage can or bin. You would also find a human helper quite handy.
You’ll enjoy a quick cleanup if you first spread a tarp on the ground to catch some of the debris. Take the tool of choice to the work area. According to familyhandyman.com, you could also use a small plastic scoop, child’s sandbox shovel, or old plastic kitchen spatula plus a trowel to remove gutter sludge. View this video to view other gutter cleaning tools.
How to dress for the job
You will want to wear work pants, a long-sleeved shirt, rubber gloves, a dust mask, and safety goggles. For your safety, you’ll need to avoid wearing loose-fitting clothes because they can catch on the guttering as you work or on the ladder as you climb, knocking you off balance. Wear shoes with tread.
Be prepared to find that you have disturbed the home of pests, rodents, and insects. They will quickly evacuate. Cleaning guttering is a dirty autumn chore.
Assess the job
Bob Vila says the first step is to assess the job. Get your ladder out and see how badly the guttering is obstructed. There may just be some dry leaves, twigs, and loose dirt laying in there, which can be easily removed.
On the other hand, impacted dirt and decomposed organic matter would require a more aggressive removal method. Next, decide which method or combination of methods that you want to use.
10 effective gutter cleaning tools
Take the bulk of the debris out by hand or by using a scoop or trowel. Flush the guttering and downspout with a garden hose. If the downspout appears to be clogged, clean it out with a power washer or a plumber’s snake. Then flush it out with a hose.
With a garden hose
A garden hose is used as a follow-up after removing debris by another method. But sometimes there is so little debris you can get away with only using a garden hose. You’ll just need to remove residual material by hand afterwards before it dries.
If you want to clean out your guttering using your garden hose while standing on the ground, you can attach a rigid tube with a curved end to your hose. Start flushing at the end farthest from the downspout and move toward the downspout.
With a leaf blower
A leaf blower that has a nozzle attachment is the perfect tool to clean guttering. You can use a special attachment to extend the blower’s reach if you are not comfortable climbing up a ladder. Check out powerequipmentdirect.com for more information.
You would need to start at the opposite end from the downspout and work toward it. The trick is to not blow leaves into the downspout. Then follow up with your garden hose, just as you would do with any other tool that you select for the job.
With a wet/dry vacuum
Here’s one of the heavy-duty workers in the lineup that cleans impacted dirt from guttering. Unlike a power washer, this method isn’t messy.
You may need to obtain particular hoses and curved attachments from your local home improvement store that will enable you to work while standing on the ground.
The dirt will likely need to be moistened before the vacuum can pull it up. Use either a garden hose or power washer on the downspout when you’re done cleaning the guttering.
With a power washer
A power washer is another heavy-duty tool. It’s a quick way to get rid of built-up dirt and debris in your guttering. The only problem with this method is the mess it makes.
Because of the mess, some people reserve using a power washer for cleaning the downspouts. In fact, a power washer is the very best way to clean out a clogged downspout. You just point the nozzle down the downspout’s hole and let the water run until the water flows freely.
What to do after you clean out the gutters
While you are rinsing out the gutter with the garden hose, take note of any leaks that you will want to repair. Then repair them. Fix sagging metal by mounting a gutter hanger.
Consider installing gutter guards on top of your guttering to prevent the accumulation of leaves and debris in the future. Clean your guttering at least once per year. Do it more often if located by tall trees, especially after storms.
Where to dump the debris
According to an article in the Star Telegram, you should not take a bucket with you to the top of the ladder because it may cause you to lose your balance. Use a large garbage can or bin below instead. Have a human helper move the trash can as you work and pick up debris. Make cleanup easier by laying out some tarp.
Gutter cleaning is one of the necessary evils that comes with home ownership. Failure to regularly clean gutters will cause damage to your home’s foundation and many other areas in your home. Damp foundations and basements harbor mold, mildew, and excessively damp air.
Debris can cause ice dams to form. Snow melts, causing trapped water. Eventually, water could damage the roof, ceilings, walls, insulation, and other things. You can prevent these various problems by keeping guttering clean.
You’ll want to wear proper clothing and safety gear to assure your safety while cleaning. Assess how bad the dirt and debris accumulation is so that you’ll know the kind of tool you’ll need to use to clean the gutters and downspouts.
You can use your hands, a tool such as a scoop or trowel, a garden hose, or a leaf blower for minor cleaning jobs. But you’ll want to use a wet/dry vac or a power washer to remove heavily impacted dirt. Realize that a power washer would create a mess.
Throw the debris into a strategically placed large trash can or bin below rather than taking a bucket with you. A tarp spread on the ground below it would catch what you miss. A helper would be handy.