The Gutter Basics

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Very few homeowners enjoy cleaning the gutters, but gutter maintenance prevents serious problems. Clogged or damaged rain gutters divert water under roof tiles and into basements. Scheduling regular gutter maintenance helps prevent costly damage.

When to Clean Rain Gutters

Ideally, gutter cleaning should occur twice a year, once in the fall and again in the spring. Falling leaves, twigs and other debris clog rain gutters in the fall, while wind, snowfall and ice damage gutters over the winter.

Gutter Cleaning Tips

Choose a windless, dry day for cleaning the gutters. Gutter maintenance requires ladder use, so avoid cleaning gutters on a day when the ground is soft and wet. Have a second person hold the ladder while you perform maintenance.

Start cleaning gutters around downspout holes, which is where the most debris builds up. Remove debris. You can find messy and unpleasant surprises when cleaning the gutters, including dead birds and animals. Wear a pair of protective gloves.

Once you remove debris, gently flush the gutter with a garden hose. This helps you detect areas of standing water and blockages in downspouts.

Gutter Maintenance: DIY Fixes to Common Gutter Problems


Standing water indicates the gutter slope needs to be increased, or that a section of guttering has loose brackets. Check sagging gutters for loose bracket nails or spikes. Drive nails back in or replace with screws. Loose spikes may need to be removed and driven back in close to the original hole. If so, seal the original hole with gutter sealant.


Gutter maintenance may reveal clogged downspouts. Remove debris from a downspout starting at the bottom. Water pressure can be used to remove downspout debris if the hose is inserted at the bottom of the downspout. Using water pressure from the downspout top often packs the clog tighter. A plumber's snake may also help remove downspout clogs. Again, insert the snake from the bottom.

While cleaning the gutters look for signs of rust, holes and leaks. Surface rust can be removed from rain gutters with a light sanding. If rain gutters are rusted through, the entire gutter may require replacing.

Professional Gutter Maintenance

Gutter cleaning usually requires the use of a ladder. Exercise caution whenever using a ladder, as even a short fall can cause serious injury. If you're not comfortable cleaning the gutters, arrange for professional gutter cleaning. Paying someone for cleaning gutters is cheaper than fixing the damage a clogged or sagging gutter causes.

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