Cleaning Gutters and Downspouts: What You Need to Know

Why Should I Clean My Gutters?

Regularly cleaning your gutters and downspouts keeps your home’s exterior dry, clean, and safe from structural damage. Leaks, water damage, ice damage, insect infestation…these are some of the things you’re looking at if you leave your gutters alone for too long. The entire point of gutters and downspouts is to keep water from hurting your roof and the structure of your home by moving water away from its perimeter. But if they get clogged, you’re not only dealing with water damage, you’re also dealing with all of the gross stuff that comes along with keeping dirty standing water hanging out near the perimeter of your house 24/7. Essentially, you’re creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes, mold, and all things dirty.

What Happens If I Don’t Clean My Gutters?

If you’re wondering if you can get away with not cleaning your gutters regularly, the answer is… it’s kind of a gamble. If you live in a mild climate and don’t have a lot of trees around your property, and the water appears to be flowing out of your downspouts without any drainage issue, your gutters might not be very clogged and you might be able to leave them without any problems…at least for a year or two. If you’re not noticing any water damage on your roof/in your attic, that’s also a sign that things are running smoothly. Most people put this chore on a semi-annual to-do list just to be safe, and to make cleaning your gutters a part of your spring/fall cleaning routine. In general though, gutter clogs and leaks are something you should be constantly keeping an eye out for, especially if you’re not routinely cleaning. Large puddles near your downspouts or bugs buzzing around the sides of your home are tell-tale signs that things have gone south.

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How Often Should I Clean My Gutters?

Cleaning gutters is something every homeowner needs to do, but the frequency of how often it needs to happen depends on certain things like how many trees are dropping leaves on your roof, what kind of climate you live in, and how efficient your downspouts are at moving water away from your home’s perimeter. If your gutters are working well, and you’re not noticing any water buildup around your house, you can get away with cleaning your gutters once a year. However, if your gutters are prone to clogging due to excess leaves, excess snow and ice, or inefficient water flow, then you will want to do this at least every six months and maybe more.

We also have helpful information on the real costs of home ownership as well as the top maintenance tasks for your home.

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How To Clean Gutters and Downspouts:

Step-By-Step

  • 1. Choose a mild, dry day to clean your gutters.
    • Leaves and other debris that are stuck in your gutters and downspouts will be easier to remove when they are dried out as much as possible.

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  • 2. Begin with one side of the house.
    • Situate your ladder securely below the gutter near the downspout.

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  • 3. Clean out the gutters.
    • Any dry, large debris using your work gloves and garbage bags, starting near the downspout and working your way back. If you have a leaf blower with a gutter extension, this can also be used to remove dry debris.

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  • 4. Return to your starting location.
    • Clean out any wet or caked-in debris using a small pointed shovel, working your way back from the downspout.

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  • 5. Find downspout strainers.
    • Clean out all downspout strainers.

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  • 6. Get a hose ready for use.
    • Wash out the gutter, starting at the end furthest from the downspout and creating a high pressure stream moving towards the downspout.

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  • 7. Check for standing water or clogged downspouts.
    • Make sure the water is clear from the hose.

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  • 8. Unclog the downspout.
    • For a clogged downspout, there are numerous things you can try. A few methods are:

      Pushing the hose through the bottom of the downspout and turn it on the highest pressure to clear out any blockages.

      Using a drain cleaning tool like a toilet drain auger or snake to clear the clog, the same way you would a shower or toilet.

      Clearing the downspout from the top with the water pressure from a hose or high pressure cleaner.

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  • 9. Use a hose one more time.
    • Rinse the unclogged gutter. Once all blockages are cleared, repeat on all four sides of the house.

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  • 10. Replace loose or missing screws.
    • This is a good time to replace missing gutter hangers or screws with new ones.

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