It’s spring (finally!) and that means it’s time for spring cleaning (woohoo, right?). It’s a lot of work, but after a long winter it can feel really good to get rid of all the extra junk in your life and start fresh with clean closets, cupboards, drawers, and an overall super-clean slate. In the flurry of sorting, tossing, recycling, and donating, don’t forget to give the outside of your house a little love, too. Maintaining your house’s exterior isn’t as exciting as tidying up your living space, but it’s super important to take care of your lawn, your siding, and, of course, your gutters. It’s not glamorous, but cleaning your gutters can save you a lot of trouble (and money) in the long run, so it’s worth investing your time now.
Sidenote: There are a billion different gutter cleaning services out there, and if hiring someone is in your budget, we say go for it. But if you can’t afford it this spring, or if you just like the idea of doing as many household tasks on your own as you can, you’ll be happy to know that cleaning your own gutters it totally within your skillset.
To make things as easy as possible, we put together this handy guide to cleaning your gutters. Give it a shot — you’ll be glad you did.
Step 1: Learn why it’s important.
Ok, so this one isn’t really action oriented, but it’s important to understand the reasons you should clean your gutters in the first place. First, clogged gutters often cause an overflow of rainwater, which can seep in the fascia above the gutter and cause rotting. Beyond that, overflowing water can cause damage to decking and rafters, and in extreme cases, even the foundation of the house. As you can imagine, neglecting gutter problems can create really expensive secondary problems, and repair bills can stack up fast.
Next time it rains, take a minute to have a look at the water flowage coming from your gutters. If it’s coming out the downspouts like it’s supposed to, you’re probably golden. If it’s flowing over the top, you’ll want to get on that right away.
Another telltale sign of a gutter problem is if you notice your gutter pulling away from the side of the house, or if you’ve got to re-fasten your gutter to the fascia often. This generally indicates that the fascia has softened from water damage. You’ll want to have the fascia board replaced as soon as possible in order to avoid more damage.
Step 2: Plan ahead, weather-wise.
Once you decide you’re going to try your hand at cleaning your own gutters, have look at the forecast. It sounds like common sense that it’ll be easier to clean your gutters on a dry day, and you’ll also want to plan the cleaning for a day when it’s already been dry for a couple days. It will be a lot easier to do the job if your gutters have had a chance to dry out as much as possible.
Step 3: Gather materials
You can save yourself some time by getting all your materials together ahead of time. You’ll need:
A hose attached to a water source
A nozzle for gutter cleaning (if desired)
Step 4: Get started!
Start cleaning your gutter near the downspout so you can get an idea of your progress as you work, and so you can more easily diagnose and address problems as you find them.
Place your ladder flush with the siding and use hooks to install your buckets on the rungs near where you’ll be working. One bucket will be used for holding tools, and the other will be for the debris you gather as you clean.
Pro-tip: Never try to clean your gutters from above, and never try to clean from higher than the third rung from the top of your ladder. You’ll be doing vigorous work, so you’ll want to make sure to have a stable base.
Step 5: Remove large debris.
Remove large debris with the trowel and put it in the bucket. Use the trowel to scrape out as much rubbish as possible. This will help expedite the next step in the process.
Step 6: Remove small debris.
Use the hose to flush smaller debris from the gutter. Place the hose on the furthest end away from the downspout. Monitor the flow of water and watch the bottom of the downspout. If the water doesn’t flow through the downspout and out the bottom, continue to work on the gutter. Keep an eye out for holes in the gutter or spout and patch using caulk.
Step 6: Repeat the process as you move away from the downspout
Pro-tip: work on small sections of the gutter at a time and repair as you go. This method will save you a lot of time.
Step 7: Flush the downspout.
Occasionally, debris can get stuck in the downspout. If you’ve cleaned your gutter and find that the water is still not going down, you’ll know the clog is within the downspout itself. Often, you’ll be able to flush clogs from the downspout using a hose with a high-powered nozzle. If water doesn’t do the trick, you may need to invest in a plumber’s snake or a gutter cleaning tool.
Step 8: Repeat on a regular basis.
Get in the habit of cleaning your gutters on a regular schedule. At a minimum, plan to maintain and clean your gutters in the spring and fall of each year.
Best practices: It’s really hard to tell if you’ve got gutter problems from the ground, so try to make a habit out of checking your gutters regularly. Once a month (you can probably skip it for the winter months), grab your ladder and do a little spot check. It’s totally worth your time because you’ll be more likely to spot gutter problems before they escalate.
So there you have it! You’re all set to try your hand at cleaning your own gutters. Give it a shot. You’ll likely find that investing an afternoon of your time in the spring and fall will save you money in the long run, and hopefully, you’ll avoid the costly repairs associated with clogged gutters. Of course, you might also find that cleaning gutters just isn’t for you. If that’s the case, no problem! There are tons of professionals out there who have all the gear and experience needed to help you keep your house in tip-top shape.
Good luck, and happy spring cleaning!