Cleaning Clogged Gutters Keeps Your Home Eco-friendly: Here’s the How and Why
by Sara Cobble, Chief Operations Officer, Pono Home
Keeping your home clean and green can help you save money, live more comfortably, improve your health, and reduce environmental impacts. Some things are obvious, like switching to LEDs and keeping your dryer vent clear, but others, like cleaning your gutters, can make a major impact and aren’t quite as obvious.
Why is gutter cleaning important?
Gutter cleaning is an important routine for homeowners to do to prevent expensive water damage and repairs. Rain gutters are meant to draw rainwater and snow melt away from your home’s foundation. When debris like leaves and twigs build up and clog your gutters and downspout, it can cause water damage to your roof, and when water pours over the gutters and around your home’s foundation, it can end up in your basement. Standing water in your gutters can also rot the fascia boards, increasing the risk of your gutters collapsing, and can encourage mildew and invite unwanted pests like ants, termites and mosquitoes.
The energy efficiency and comfort of your home is also at risk. If gutters get clogged, rain and ice can back up and compromise the seal of your home, causing water to seep into your attic and diminish your attic insulation. This would result in higher heating and cooling bills and less comfort in the home, not to mention increased carbon emissions from all the extra energy and gas that would be needed to increase the workload of your furnace and/or air conditioning.
How (and how often) to clean your clogged gutters
How often you should clean your gutters depends on where you live and how much tree coverage you have. In most places, ideally they should be cleaned twice a year: once in late fall after most of the leaves have fallen, and in late spring, when flower petals, seeds and pollen can build up. If you live in a densely forested area, you might need to clear your gutters three to four times a year, and if you live in the desert, you might only need to clean them every few years. Wherever you live, it’s important not to put off this relatively easy job, since it gets bigger the longer you wait to do it.
Tools needed for gutter cleaning:
Two buckets with wire hooks
Step ladder or extension ladder
Hose with spray nozzle or gutter cleaning attachment
Tools needed for gutter repairs:
Drill with bits
Paint for touch-ups
How to clean your gutters
- Set-up. Check the weather before you begin. The gutters will be easier to clean after a few dry days (since the debris built up will be drier and less heavy). Set up your stepladder on solid ground and be careful to avoid power lines. Carry your two buckets one at a time up the ladder and hook them at the top. One bucket should be used for carrying tools, and the other for depositing debris.
- Clean the clogged gutters. Start by clearing out large leaves and twigs near the downspout. Use the trowel to scoop out dirt and smaller material into the bucket (and these can be saved for compost or mulch). Clean and remove any downspout strainers. Once you have cleared out the large pieces, flush out any remaining debris with the hose starting on the end of the gutters opposite the downspout. You can do this by standing on the ladder and spraying the nozzle, or by standing on the ground and using a gutter cleaning attachment.
- Unclog the downspout. If the water isn’t pouring through the downspout, it may be clogged. To clear it, feed the hose up from the bottom of the downspout and spray upward. If the bottom of the downspout feeds into an underground system, you may have to remove the bottom end (see video for example of this). For stubborn clogs, you can also use a snaking device, like a LintEater, or a plumber’s or electrician’s snake. The LintEater comes with a gutter clearing attachment specifically for clearing out a tough clump of debris.Once the clog has cleared, reattach the downspout and flush the entire gutter one more time with water, being careful not to spray directly onto the shingles of your roof.
- Check for leaks and quality of gutter spikes. If you see any leaks, you will need to patch them up with gutter sealant. Once the gutters are dry, run gutter sealant along any leaking joints or end caps. Check each gutter spike to ensure it goes through the gutter, through the fascia board, which carries the gutter, and into the rafter. If the gutters aren’t securely fastened, it’s a good idea to install new gutter spikes. You should also make sure the gutters are sloped correctly. If you see standing water after cleaning, that’s a sign they aren’t. The gutters should decline ¼ inch every ten feet toward the downspout.
- Install gutter screens. To prevent gutter debris from accumulating in the first place, install gutter screens. However, this does not mean you won’t have to clean your gutters ever again — they will still need to be cleaned every few years.
For more information, check out the following video:
How much does it cost to have this professionally done?
The price can vary depending on how many stories the home has (increasing risk for the technician), how much debris has built up, and the size of the gutters. For this article, we read a few different arguments on costs: some said that $60 was way too cheap for a professional, and if you’re getting your gutters cleaned for that amount, it’s probably not a good company. Others said if you’re spending hundreds of dollars, that’s way too much and you’re getting ripped off. It all depends on the complexity of the job. Most contractors work on a time and materials basis, so the longer the job takes, the more expensive it’d be. Compared to the cost of the potential repairs and damages, though, as usual, the mantra of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is probably accurate here.
Here is the average cost according to HomeAdvisor: