For year-long protection from rainwater damage, it is good to get into the routine of cleaning out your gutters at least twice a year – in spring and autumn. Combine this task with a roof inspection (see our FAQs) if possible to save time.
Why Cleaning Gutters is So Important
The main purpose of your gutters is to channel rainwater away from the vulnerable areas of your home. Whenever a section of guttering fails – through damage or blockage – that part of the house becomes at risk of long-term or short-term water damage.
For example, water running down fascia boards, wooden sidings, doors and windows can lead to rot. Water cascading down walls will gradually erode a path into your home, causing issues with damp. If you allow water to pool at the foot of the house, this can seep down and damage foundations.
Even if blocked guttering isn’t causing an immediate problem, the pooled water will pose a risk to wooden or metal gutters, will put strain on the fixings holding the gutter in place (water is surprisingly heavy) and can freeze in the winter leading to cracking. Rather than having to pay out for a complete new guttering system, a bi-annual clean will keep you worry-free for decades.
Equipment and Safety
Here is a full list of all the things you are likely to need when cleaning your gutters:
- Sturdy extendable ladder (metal or fibreglass, with horns ideally)
- Old, long-sleeved shirt or similar protective clothes
- Thick leather or suede gloves
- Eye protection
- Plastic gutter scoop, trowel or children’s spade
- Small, light bucket with lanyard
- Hose (ideally with on/off trigger nozzle)
- Tarpaulin or old sheeting to protect ground
- Plumber’s auger (snake)
- Clear gutter caulk
- Leaf blower
- Small scrubbing brush
Before you begin your work, make sure somebody responsible knows where you are and what you are doing in case of an accident. Although a stepladder may be sufficient for a low roof, it is best to use an extendable metal ladder.
Ensure the top rungs of your ladder extend above the eaves of the house and never step on the top two rungs. Stay well clear of power lines and never lean out from the side of a ladder.
If you are elderly, in poor health or your building is more than a single storey, we recommend getting a company in to clean your gutters. Stepping on to a ladder, even if your building is a single storey, is always risky and you are solely responsible for that decision.
If you have a very low and flat roof, you may decide to step on to it to clean the gutters. This is always risky and you are solely responsible for that decision. If you are unsure of the condition of the deck you should not step on to any roof. If you do decide to step on to the roof, a sheet of OSB3 board or plywood can help to distribute your weight evenly.
Choose a part of the house beside a downpipe and set up your ladder securely alongside it. If your ladder doesn’t have horns, rest it gently against the gutter and bring up a block of 2×4 with you to reinforce it with.
Before you begin cleaning the gutter, it is best to use a rake or leaf blower to remove any leaves and debris you can see on the roof. Use eye protection to avoid flying debris. Check the fascia board for signs of rot.
Hang your bucket and hose from the ladder or a convenient projection.
Cleaning the gutter:
Using your trowel, remove as much debris as you can, depositing it in the bucket. Work up from the downpipe as far as you can reach without leaning. If you have a scrubbing brush, try to dislodge any ingrained dirt. Finish off the section by washing out with the hose. A hose with a trigger is generally best as you can adjust the flow with one hand and hang it from the gutter when not using it. Observe the downpipe to make sure the water drains quickly without any leaks.
Climb down, inspecting the downpipe and its wall fittings for damage as you go.
Move the ladder to the next section of guttering and repeat the process.
Additional gutter maintenance:
If any of the downpipes appear to be blocked, try using a plumber’s auger by feeding up from beneath. If this doesn’t work, you may need to feed it in from the top and flush out any debris with the hose until the pipe runs free.
Replace any damaged fittings and seal any leaky seams with gutter caulk (if leaks persist, you may need to replace that section of guttering). For painted downpipes, finish off with a fresh coat.
Preventing future gutter problems:
Regular maintenance is by far the best way to extend the life of your guttering. However, gutter covers, clip-on grates and foam can keep debris away for longer. However, this can be more expensive than the cost of guttering so may not be the best solution, particularly if they are hard to detach when you do want to carry out a thorough clean.