Now that spring is a month away, as a homeowner, you should be thinking about cleaning the gutters. While it still is technically winter, our Pacific Northwest climate isn’t so cold or extreme. Anytime the temperatures are above zero, the gutters can be cleaned. But do you know how to clean gutters? If you’re a new homeowner or you’ve never had to clean the gutters before, it’s not that difficult. The good news is that gutter maintenance is relatively the same regardless of what material the gutter system is made of.
It’s important to keep the gutters clean.
The first thing you need to know is they need to be cleaned regularly as part of a home maintenance schedule that will help keep your house in good shape. When a gutter system is not well-maintained, a lot can happen (and none of it very good). Many problems can occur when gutters aren’t cleaned including:
- Becoming clogged with debris such as dirt, leaves, twigs, seedpods, blossoms
- Overflowing which can lead to soffit, fascia, and/or roof rot
- Water spilling over the sides and damaging siding or washing out landscaping
- Inviting nesters like birds, mosquitoes, ants, wasps, etc.
- Damage to hardware and added weight that can cause gutter sections to pull away from the fascia
To get the gutters ready for heavy spring rains, clean the gutters in the early spring. The gutters will need to be cleaned again in the late fall to get the gutter system ready to survive the winter.
Tools and cleaning materials you’ll need.
In order to save time running back and forth, ensure you have everything gathered together before you start gutter cleaning. Essential tools and cleaning materials you’ll need to clean the gutters manually are:
- Work gloves
- Safety glasses
- Sturdy ladder
- Garden hose with a pistol grip trigger
- Gutter scoop
- Mild detergent
- Bleach if removing mold
- Trash bags
You will be working from a ladder.
A general guideline advises to use a stepladder for a one-storey house; an extension ladder for homes over one-storey. Make sure the ladder is placed on dry, even ground. When using an extension ladder, don’t lean it directly against aluminum gutters; it can cause dents. Use a ladder standoff or stabilizer, a device that attaches to the top of the ladder so it can be placed safely against the wall.
Be prepared to climb up and down the ladder whenever it needs to be moved along the gutter run – you never want to overreach. When moving an extension ladder, be aware of any power lines around the roof of your home.
Remove the debris from the gutters.
Depending on the size of the house, cleaning the gutters can take anywhere from two to four hours. Some ways to make the gutter cleaning process more efficient are:
- Remove clumps of large debris such as leaves and twigs from the gutter channel with your gloved hands
- When removing debris that has started to break down or is wet, use a gutter scoop
- Use a pail to store tools and equipment – it can be hooked on to the ladder
- Use a trash bag for the debris – putting it directly into the bag saves you emptying the bucket or raking the ground
- Once the debris has been removed, flush the gutter system with water beginning at the opposite end of the gutter outlet where the downspout is attached to the gutters
Clean the outside of the gutters.
To preserve the gutter system’s finish it is important to clean the outside of the gutters as well. Remove marks and streaks with a mild detergent or an eco-friendly cleaning solution. For stubborn stains use a bleach/water/detergent solution (1 part bleach to 4 parts water).
Pay attention to the downspouts.
Once the gutters have been cleaned, you will want to clean all of the downspouts that are a part of the gutter system. A quick method to clean downspouts includes:
- Set up the ladder next to the downspout being cleaned
- At the gutter outlet, use a garden hose to blast water down the pipe – if the water trickles rather than exits at full force, there is most likely a clog
- Try placing the hose at the bottom of the downspout and spraying up
- If the blockage still has not been dislodged, you’ll need to use a plumber’s snake