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How to Clean Gutters

Jeffrey Anderson | Improvement Center Columnist | December 13, 2011

The gutters and downspouts on your home are designed to move rain water off your roof and away from your foundation. They work as part of your home's overall exterior drainage system that includes the pitch of the roof and the grading of your yard. The major function of this arrangement is to prevent water from pooling at your home's perimeter where it may eventually leak inside and possibly cause expensive damage.

The importance of cleaning your gutters

Your gutters and downspouts are the weak links in this important drainage system. If you don't keep them clean, they can easily become clogged with leaves and debris that may disrupt the flow of water and allow it to overflow next to your home. Blocked gutters left for a long period of time can cause structural damage to your home and may also be a source of ice damming during the winter. Fortunately, cleaning your gutters is an easy DIY task and if you're not a big fan of climbing ladders, most contractors don't charge much to do the job. When cleaning your own gutters, follow these handy tips:

  1. Gutters are somewhat fragile--take care your ladder doesn't do any damage
  2. Start at the high point of the gutter run and work your way down to the downspout. This way acorns or other rolling debris don't end up in an area you've already cleaned
  3. Use a garden hose to wash any loose debris through each downspout--watch the bottom of the downspout to ensure water is discharging properly
  4. Arrange splash blocks at the bottom of downspouts so that they don't impede water flow
  5. Problems with sagging gutters or potential trouble spots should be repaired while cleaning

Working on a ladder can be dangerous and should be done with an assistant--especially if your gutters are two stories high. Always use recommended ladder safety guidelines while cleaning and have your helper brace the bottom of the ladder when you're on it. If getting to some gutter runs requires setting up your ladder on a lower roof, it may be a good idea to call in a professional contractor.

Cleaning your gutters should be done at least once each year, but the job can be quick and easy if you've installed gutter guards on your home. There are several styles to choose from, and all work to keep debris out of your gutters. Pricing can vary, but expect to pay about $2 to $3 a linear foot for the materials.

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