October 31, 2017

How to Clean Out Gutters – and Why You Should

It's important to clean out gutters regularly. Doing so keeps rain flowing away from your home, and helps prevent water damage. Discover the tools you'll need to diy your gutter cleaning, get product recommendations, and learn a few hacks. Your ladder awaits!

It’s important to clean out gutters twice a year.  Find out why, and how, below.


Drip, drip, drip.

That’s not normal.  It’s raining, but… where is that coming from?  You round the corner into your living room to see…

Big, shiny drops of water trickling in from the corner of the ceiling.

Holy ____!

Great.  Drywall soaked with rainwater, ceiling already mushy and yellowing, mold creeping down the wall in the very near future, along with a side of wood rot.

Guess what?  This particular incident could have been prevented.

Instead of standing here, jaw agape, staring in shock at water pouring into your living room, you could have skipped this whole thing.  That drip, drip, drip didn’t have to pierce your ears.  How could it have been prevented?  Here are a few options:

  1. Throw a humongous tarp over your house every time it rains
  2. Move to the desert
  3. Clean out your gutters

1 and 2 are self-explanatory.  Let’s talk about number 3.

What Your Gutters Do

Gutters serve a purpose, girl.  And it’s NOT to look pretty!

Gutters and downspouts are actually there to guide water away from your home – you probably knew that.  More specifically, they:

  • Prevent water and ice from building up along your roof and forcing their way under shingles (Causing leaks)
  • Keep excess water away from your foundation, which could weaken the surrounding soil that supports the foundation (Leading to potentially dangerous foundation cracks)
  • Reduce soil erosion (I.e., gradual washing away of ground) around your home by directing the water to a specific area

Why You Should Clean Out Your Gutters

If you think leaky roofs, cracked foundations, and soil erosion sound expensive, you’re right – they are.  A clogged gutter can end up causing hundreds or thousands of dollars of damage to your home.

It's important to clean out gutters regularly. Doing so keeps rain flowing away from your home, and helps prevent water damage. Discover the tools you'll need to diy your gutter cleaning, get product recommendations, and learn a few hacks. Your ladder awaits!

According to Home Advisor (At the time of this writing), it costs almost $800 to repair the average leaky roofThe average foundation repair job costs nearly $4,000.  And resloping a lawn to remedy soil erosion?  That costs almost $1,900 on average.  Yup, you read that right.

Gutters themselves can become a liability if not cleaned regularly.  The weight of all those decaying leaves, tree nuts, and other muck can pull gutters away from your home, leading to wood rot and damage to the gutters themselves.  Ready for another stat from Home Advisor?  The average cost of gutter repairs is $330.

Cleaning out gutters is starting to sound better and better, isn’t it?

When to Clean Out Gutters

For most people, it’s fine to clean out gutters twice per year – in the spring and fall.  If you have trees nearby that extend to or above your roofline, you probably want to clean them out in early fall and again in late fall.  As a result, you’ll have less muck to clean out each time.  This is a good thing – trust me.

If you’re like me and have a colony of jerk squirrels nearby who regularly discard their acorn shells onto your roof, you might want to do an extra cleaning as well.  The rain and wind carry those little shells down into the gutter, where they love to add weight and clog the downspouts.

How to Clean Out Gutters

Okay, friend.  There are 2 routes you can go here:

  • Clean out gutters yourself
  • Hire someone to clean out gutters for you

Each one has its advantages, as well as its drawbacks.  Let’s take a look.

Hire Someone to Clean Out Gutters

Pros:

  • A professional is doing the work
  • Saves you time
  • You don’t have to get on a ladder

Cons:

  • Costs money
  • You’re limited by the contractor’s schedule
  • You don’t get street cred for doing the job yourself 😀

Some people prefer to pay someone to do it and be done with it.  They don’t have the time, energy, or desire to scoop gunk out of gutters 30 feet in the air.  I definitely get that.

Also, if you’re not comfortable on a ladder, hiring a pro is your best bet.

At the time of this writing, Home Advisor stated that the average gutter clean-out job costs about $150.  Depending on your budget, that’s not so bad.

Clean Out Gutters Yourself

Pros:

  • It’s cheaper
  • You can check on the condition of your roof, flashing, and chimney while you’re up there
  • You get the satisfaction of being a badass female homeowner killing it by cleaning out her own gutters

Cons:

  • It’s not difficult, but it does take some time and energy
  • It can be gross (Okay but really, get over that.  Wear gloves.)
  • It can be dangerous

Personally, I prefer to clean out gutters myself.  Why?

First, I’m cheap.  It’s worth 2-3 hours of my time and energy to avoid paying someone else to do it.  Second, it’s actually kind of fun (I know, I’m totally weird).  Third, I’m pretty comfortable on a ladder.

It's important to clean out gutters regularly. Doing so keeps rain flowing away from your home, and helps prevent water damage. Discover the tools you'll need to diy your gutter cleaning, get product recommendations, and learn a few hacks. Your ladder awaits!

Supplies You’ll Need

  • Ladder (Make sure it’s tall enough for you to easily reach your highest gutter)
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Bucket hooks or sturdy rope (I just use rope)
  • Trash bags
  • Garden trowel (Make sure that it’s widest point is narrower than the bottom of your gutter)
  • Gloves (I prefer heavy-duty rubber gloves)
  • Safety glasses
  • Hose with nozzle
  • Clothes and shoes that you don’t care about

Don’t have all of the supplies listed above?  Check out my Amazon picks for gutter-cleaning gear:

What to Do

There’s no secret here.  Put on your workin’ clothes, scale that ladder, and scoop away.  But here are a few things I do to make cleaning out my gutters as easy as possible:

  • I like to tie my bucket to an upper rung of the ladder (One that I WON’T be standing on) with a short length of rope, so it hangs on the back of the ladder right about waist height.  This makes it really easy to get the gutter junk into the bucket.
  • I line the bucket with a trash bag, scoop the gutter contents out section by section, and place them in the bucket.
  • Once the bucket is full, I remove the trash bag, carry the trash bag down, and dispose of the gutter muck.  It’s much easier for me to carry a soft, squishy trash bag down a ladder, than a hard, heavy bucket.
  • Once the gutters are clean, I use a hose with a high-pressure nozzle up and spray it down the downspouts to get them nice and clean.  Don’t try to wash leaves and other debris into your downspouts using the hose.  You’ll end up clogging the downspouts, which is a no-fun situation.

Check out this video from Lowe’s for a handy, step-by-step guide to cleaning out gutters and downspouts yourself.

Some Final Tips

  • Always practice good ladder safety.  This includes actually reading the instruction label on your ladder (You know, the one you usually ignore).
  • Have a friend or family member on the ground to help dispose of the gutter gunk and stabilize your ladder.
  • There are all kinds of $19.95 gutter cleaning gadgets on the market – try them at your own risk.  Personally, I’ve had the best success using a plain old trowel.

Conclusion

Although cleaning out gutters isn’t super fun, it IS super important.  Whether you hire someone to do it for you, or do it yourself (Like the badass you are), cleaning out gutters and downspouts at least twice a year will keep them in good working order.  In turn, you’ll save untold thousands of dollars in costly repairs to your home.  And that drip, drip, drip?  It’ll never pierce your ears.

P.S. – It’s also important to know how to locate and use your utility shutoffs – check out my post on that.

It's important to clean out gutters regularly.  Doing so keeps rain flowing away from your home, and helps prevent water damage. Discover the tools you'll need to diy your gutter cleaning, get product recommendations, and learn a few hacks.  Your ladder awaits!

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