Cleaning Roof Gutters - DIY vs. Hiring a Pro
Rain gutters will naturally, over time, become clogged with debris. Cleaning them is something that’s easy to put off - especially if you don’t have a ladder or have physical limitations that make the DIY job unsafe.
Why It’s Important to Keep Your Gutters Clean
Roofing and gutter repairs are some of the most expensive home improvements to make. Keeping your gutters clean is critical to extending the life of your professional gutter installation. Failure to maintain your gutters will cost you more money in the long run.
Your home’s gutter system ensures rainwater flows away from the roof lines. If the gutters are clogged, the flow gets blocked. When neglected for an extended period, this translates to issues such as:
- Mold growth
- Roof leaks
- Sagging gutters
- Damage to the walls and foundation of your home
- Rodent and pest control issues (dirty gutters make great homes for them!)
How Often Should You Clean Your Gutters?
Plan to clean your gutters twice a year - once in the spring and again in the fall. If pine trees surround your home, clean the gutters every three to five months to remove the needles. Cleaning in the spring will prepare the gutters for the rainy season. Cleaning in the fall will remove all the leaves and debris that accumulated over the summer.
How to Clean Gutters
Gather Your Tools
Before you get started, you’ll need to make sure you have:
- Sturdy gloves
- Gutter tools
- Safety glasses
- Ladder and accessories (step ladder or extension ladder)
- Bucket for debris
- Garden hose and nozzle
- Pressure washer (optional)
- Mold and mildew remover (as needed)
- Paintbrushes and paint (optional, only needed for touch-ups)
- Caulk and sealants (as needed)
Assess the Situation
Regular maintenance helps your gutters last longer, but at some point you’ll need repair or replacement. Check for signs that cleaning won’t be enough, such as:
- Cracks and/or splits
- Water pooling with mold and mildew
- Rust/paint damage
- Watermarks or water damage
- Sagging gutters
You can repair some cracks and split yourself with sealant. You can also treat with mold and mildew remover. But, if you have water damage or sagging gutters, you’ll need to call in a professional.
Use Caution on the Ladder
You’ll have to use a ladder for cleaning roof gutters. Follow these guidelines:
- Use your ladder on solid ground whenever it’s possible.
- If you use an extension ladder, use a ladder stabilizer to help your ladder stay in place. Always use an extension ladder when working on a two-story home.
- Do not climb higher than the second step or rung.
- Do not overextend your reach.
- Consider having someone outside nearby to assist you on the ground.
If you’re not comfortable on the ladder or have balance issues, consider hiring a professional.
Work from the downspout, starting from the open end and work your way up to the closed end. Wait until there has been no rain for a few days before you begin cleaning. When everything is dry, the task will be easier.
- Use two buckets - one for debris, and one to hold your tools.
- Wear safety gloves and safety glasses to protect yourself from the debris. Wear rubber gloves under work gloves if the debris is wet. This keeps your hands dry.
- Use your hands to clear large debris and a gutter scoop or trowel for anything that’s compared.
- After the majority of the debris has been removed, you can flush the rest out using your garden hose fitted with a spray nozzle.
- Start at the far end and move toward the downspout.
- Use a strong water stream, but avoid spraying underneath shingles.
You may want to consider purchasing specialty hose attachments for gutters or investing in a pressure washer for maximum spraying power.
Inspect the Downspouts
If you notice the water you’ve used to flush the gutters isn’t draining quickly, inspect the downspout for clogs. Turn your hose on and spray down the spout. If less water comes out than goes in, there’s a blockage somewhere. To remove the blockage:
- Feed your house up the downspout.
- Turn the hose on at full pressure, to attempt to dislodge the blockage.
- If this doesn’t work, use a plumber’s snake.
If your downspout flows into an underground system, remove the bottom end to access the downspout.
Check Drainage and Slope
Once the downspout is free of clogs, flush the gutters again. Check water flow and drainage. If you find any standing water, your gutters aren’t properly sloped. If they don’t slope properly, detach the hangers and adjust them.
Gutters need to slope 1/4-inch for every 10-feet toward the downspout. Once sloped properly, reattach securely.
Inspect each section along with the downspout for signs of damage. Add support hangers or reattach as needed.
Seal Any Leaks
If you find leaks at the seams or joints, seal them with gutter sealant, according to product directions.
If desired, use a pressure washer to remove mildew and dirt. This step isn’t necessary but helps to improve your home’s appearance.
Touch Up with Paint
If desired, touch up the gutters with paint.
When a Professional is the Best Choice
There are some situations where opting for a professional is ideal, such as:
- You don’t have all the necessary tools.
- You’re not physically capable of using a ladder safely.
- You don’t have time to take care of it yourself.
- Your inspection reveals extensive damage.
Professional cleaning fees vary depending on your location. Prices are generally based on the number of linear feet of gutters on your property. Expect to pay more for multi-story homes.
Taking good care of your gutters will help to prevent common roofing problems.
Whether you need your roof gutters cleaned, or some other home maintenance job done, you can always find top-quality professionals here at Billy.com.