How do I Deal with Clogged Gutters?

M.C. Huguelet

While dealing with clogged gutters can be a nasty job, responsible homeowners know it must be done — and done regularly — to prevent water damage to windows, doors, and even foundations. With the right tools and techniques, clearing out gutter gunk can be a fairly straightforward process. Furthermore, a few simple preventive measures can dramatically reduce the amount of time you must spend digging out clogged gutters in the future.

Rubber gloves should be worn when clearing clogged gutters.
Rubber gloves should be worn when clearing clogged gutters.

The first step to clearing clogged gutters is assembling an arsenal of tools. Gather a sturdy ladder, a trowel and pail, a pair of rubber gloves, and a wire brush. Also helpful are a plumber’s snake and a container of roofing cement, both available from most home improvement stores. Finally, bring a garden hose which has been attached to an outdoor water supply to the spot where you wish to begin cleaning. The hose must be long enough to reach all parts of the gutters, so attach an extension if necessary.

A ladder is a necessary tool for unclogging gutters.
A ladder is a necessary tool for unclogging gutters.

It can be quite useful to have a helper standing by to hand you these tools as you need them. If this is not possible, you may wish to secure them to a tool belt before ascending the ladder. Should you opt for a tool belt, prevent accidents while you work by ensuring its components do not get caught on your hands and feet or on the gutters.

Put on your gloves and carefully climb the ladder at your starting spot. Now begin scooping out all dead leaves and other debris which have accumulated in the gutter. If the gutters contain mud, you may wish to scoop it out with your trowel, depositing it in your pail. Use the plumber’s snake to poke jammed debris through downspout openings. Once all excess debris has been cleared away, rinse the gutters with a high-pressure blast from your hose.

As you rinse, look for patches of rust on the gutters’ interiors. Rust’s corrosive properties can wear holes into your gutters, making them ineffective. To treat corrosion, first scrape away the rust with your wire brush, and then make the area watertight by coating it with a layer of roofing cement.

A few simple techniques can reduce the time you must spend clearing out clogged gutters in the future. First of all, make a habit of checking the gutters at least twice a year. If you avoid letting the job go for long periods, debris has less time to accumulate, and clearing the gutters may require little more than a quick spray of water.

Second, ensure proper drainage by making sure your gutters are properly angled. To do this, simple release some water into the gutter. The water should run down the gutter in the direction of the downspout. If the water runs away from the downspout or simply sits in place, adjust the angle of the gutter using wire or plastic ties.

Finally, minimize clogged gutters by installing vinyl or steel gutter guards. These devices, which are available from most home improvement stores, snap into place over the gutter. They are usually arched in design and perforated with many small holes. This design allows water to run through the gutters as usual while shielding them from leaves and other debris.

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Discussion Comments


Because I am on a "budget" and can't climb ladders anymore, I went on-line and purchased the Gutter Clutter Buster (GCB) tool and now I clean my second story gutters from the ground and no clean up after I'm finished.

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