Updated: Aug 12
Cleaning gutters is one of those tasks that no one really wants to do. Gutters serve a very good solution for collecting rainwater from your roof and redirecting it away from your house. In the event your gutters are no longer draining properly, you may be the victim of a clogged gutter. If this is case, then you you have a few options: calling a professional, ignore the problem and hope it goes away, or clean them yourself.
Calling a professional would be my suggestion above all. This would take the liability away from you and ease your mind knowing you are not going to get hurt in the process. The second option, ignoring the problem, is not recommended. While it may be okay to wait a few weeks after noticing the clogged gutter, it is vital that you do something about it because if the problem persists it can cause damage to your home that will cost much more than hiring a professional or doing it yourself. Lastly, cleaning gutters yourself is another option to consider. If you are attempting to clean gutters yourself, I suggest that you follow this blog closely to be able to clean your gutters safely, and effectively.
Going Over The Basics: Gutter Cleaning In A Nutshell
Before you start climbing on your roof lets go over a few things first. Cleaning gutters is the process of removing leaves, sticks, and debris out of your gutters and ensuring that downspouts are draining. As simple as the task seems it can be quite difficult to do and should never be done without proper safety in mind. If you are not leaving the ground to clean your gutters, then proceed. If you are like most people, you are going to need a ladder to get on your roof and you are going to want somebody to be there if only to hold the ladder.
How Often Should I Clean My Gutters?
Pressure Worx recommends cleaning your gutters twice a year to ensure your gutters are working properly and you are keeping your gutters clear and free from debris during the most crucial times of the year: Spring and Autumn. You should consider cleaning your gutters just after the flowers and trees have bloomed. The blooms from trees tend to shed right after the blooming season and this can cause a lot of foliage ending up in your gutters. The same can be said for Fall. The leaves will come down and fill your gutters fast. Its best to wait for majority of the leaves to fall before you clean. Cleaning your gutters regularly at the right times of the year can have an everlasting effect on the health of your roof and gutter system.
Gutter Cleaning Safety Precautions
Before you decide to start cleaning your gutters it is important to keep safety in mind. Here are some of the best safety tips for cleaning gutters. First, always make sure that you are using ladder correctly when using a ladder. Ladders must be properly footed and should not move when positioning it. The ladder should not be too vertical or too horizontal.
The rule of thumb for determining the correct slope of the ladder is to hold both arms out in front of you and stand at the base of the ladder with your feet touching the feet of the ladder. The part of the ladder that is at shoulder height should rest comfortably in your hands without you leaning forward or bending you elbows. This is one rule that will ensure your ladder is sloped correctly.
Another rule with ladder safety should practiced whenever you are on a ladder is the 3 points of connection rule. This rule basically says its safe to climb and work from a ladder as long as you maintain 3 points of contact with the ladder. This means 2 hands and one foot, or 2 feet and one hand on the ladder at all times.
What's The Best Way To Clean Gutters?
While there are many ways to clean gutters, there is no best way. The best way ultimately comes down to your house and resources and what level of knowledge and ability you have. While I cannot tell you which way is the best, I can share with you some of the common methods we have used at Pressure Worx over the years.
The Bucket Method
The bucket method is an effective method of cleaning gutters because it has very little mess left behind to clean. The bucket method is what I like to call a simple gutter cleaning. This method involves going up a ladder and cleaning the gutter by scooping the debris up with a gutter tool or with your hands then putting it in your bucket. This is easily done when paired with a bucket hanger to hold a bucket on your ladder so you can keep at least 3 points on contact to ensure safety while cleaning with this method.
While the bucket method is one of the easiest ways to clean your gutters for a beginner, there are some downsides to this method. Going up and down a ladder with even semi-full buckets is exhaustive. Having to reach within a few feet of the ladder makes moving the ladder frequent and making sure the footing of the ladder is stable is of the utmost importance. If you are able to comfortably walk on you roof, you can skip moving the ladder as much and focus on filling buckets. This will improve time, and make the task much less daunting.
The Leaf Blower Method
The leaf blower method is by far one of the quickest ways to clean your gutters. If you are able to walk on the roof and blow the leaves out with a leaf blower, you can clean your gutters in record time with little no mess if you clean them regularly and on a dry day. You can also clean gutters with a leaf blower from a ladder. While it's not as effective as being to walk on your roof, it is still better than hand scooping the debris. You are able to blow upwards of 10-12 feet in either direction of the ladder with a reasonably strong backpack blower.
The downside to this method is that its not effective if the gutters are clogged and filled with water. I do not recommend trying to clean gutters with a leaf blower while there is water sitting in the gutter. You can do a quick check by simply lifting the gutter debris up so you can see the bottom. If the debris isn't moist, or doesn't have any water sitting in the bottom of the gutter, then you are all set to start blowing them out.
The Pressure Washer Method
The pressure wash method is one of the best methods if your gutters are hard to reach or still have moisture in the debris. Pressure washing the gutters can be hard for someone with little to no experience working a pressure wash. With a little experience, you can shoot the leaves and debris out from nearly 20 feet away. If the roof is walkable, this can really speed your gutter clean up because you can use a fan spray and walk the gutter line effectively removing all the leaves and debris.
In the instance that you are unable to walk the roof, you can stand near the top of the ladder and use zero degree nozzle. A zero degree nozzle is basically max pressure shot in narrow stream. This stream has enough force to knock the gutter debris out a long a ways so you dont have to move the ladder as much. In addition, because you are using water to clean your gutters, you will be flushing out the downspouts as well.
The downside to using a pressure washer to clean your gutters is how dirty the process is. The gutters will clean up just fine and quickly too. But with all that wet debris you have no choice but spray the house while you have the pressure washer out. Rinse the house with a low pressure high volume tip such as a two story soap tip to remove the remaining debris on the front of the gutters and siding of the house until the debris has been removed completely.
How Can I Clean My Gutters From The Ground?
You can clean gutters from the ground to prevent risk of injury. This method can be a little tricky if you dont have the right tools. So I will cover 3 ways you can clean your gutters without ever having to get on a ladder.
Using A Pressure Washer
Yes, you can clean gutters from the ground using a pressure washer. It's not the most convenient way to clean gutters but if you want to avoid injury. The idea behind using a pressure washer from the ground is quite different than climbing onto your roof and spraying with your zero degree tip. Instead you will need 2 tools to help you do the job: a telescoping wand and a gutter hook.
Once you have both items, you can connect your telescoping wand to your pressure washer and the gutter hook to your wand. The telescoping wand will allow you to change the length of your wand for your current needs. Some wands extend from 6 feet to 24 feet long, making it a great tool to get just above the gutters height.
The gutter hook is a u-shaped attachment for the pressure washing wand. It will put a curve on your wand allowing you to be able to spray down into the gutter. Between the two attachments and a good rated pressure washer you will have no problem cleaning your gutters from the ground. Some things to consider when using this type of setup is safety hat and safety glasses. Since you are below all the debris flying down, its best to be well protect from foreign objects flying down at you.
Using A Leaf Blower
We know that we can use a leaf blower to clean the gutters, but did you know there is a way to use it from the ground? Well there is a way but it does require a pretty strong backpack blower. The idea here is not much different than the pressure washer. No there isn't a telescoping nozzle on a backpack blower but may DIYers have found a unique solution that I think is wonderful. The backpack blower has a tube that forces air out the end of it and while there aren't telescoping attachments, you can extend the tube with good old fashioned PVC.
Thin and lightweight PVC makes for an ideal tubing to extend the reach of a backpack blower. I have seem guys clean gutters effortlessly with this type of setup. To have this type of setup you must be able to cut and glue PVC together to get the appropriate length. Once you have it at a good length you can add a 90 degree fitting to make the pipe go up to the gutters and another 2 90 degree fittings to make to the u shape needed for the proper angle.
The downside to this method is that the pipe may not work if the distance is too far or the blower is just simply not strong enough. Additionally, once you make the attachment for the backpack blower, it cannot be adjusted with cutting and glueing it back together.
Using A Vacuum
A vacuum may not be at the top of your list, but it's definitely at the top of my list. With a strong shop vac, you will have enough suction to vacuum all the debris out of your gutter with little to no mess to clean up. The same idea of using PVC to extend the reach for the backpack blower can be applied directly to a vacuum instead. The perks of using a vacuum is that all the debris ends up in the can of the vacuum and can be disposed of as you please. This is most effective way for cleaning your gutters as well as the safest.
Flushing Your Downspouts
After you have cleaned your gutters of the majority of the debris will be removed and the gutter system will be relatively clean. As a professional company, we always try to go above and beyond to make sure our clients are happy with our performance, so we insist on rinsing the gutters and flushing the downspouts.
In this step, we use a garden house with an adjustable spray handle to move any remaining debris and sediment down the gutter and out the downspout. This step ensures that gutters are completely cleaned and draining water like they should. For flushing downspouts, its best to aim the hose directly into the downspout and spray with a jet like stream. If the water comes out the bottom smoothly, you are all done.
If they downspouts are holding water, you may have to dig debris out with your hand if you can reach it. if not you can use a snake just like you would on the toilet. There are typically only three places downspouts get clogged. The first two are at the top where the downspout bends at the soffits, and bends against the siding. and the other is the bend at the bottom. The 2 at the top are the only ones that are likely to get clogged.
Cleaning your gutters is not a task to take lightly whether you hire a professional or decide to do it yourself. You should always consider safety your number one priority when doing any work, let alone ladder work or work on the roof. At Pressure Worx, we use mainly the backpack blower and the pressure washer methods of cleaning when we clean gutters for our clients. We also would like to note that we flush the downspouts with either the pressure washer or garden hose and make sure they are draining properly.
If you have enjoyed this article please consider sharing it with someone who is planning on cleaning their gutters. And if you have anything you would like to add to this article or had questions about this topic, please leave a comment so we can further discuss it.
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