A note from Todd: This article is the second in a two-part series. In part one, we covered roof moss treatment and removal. For this project, we’re working with Greg and Abe of DAPrDAN, a locally owned home-detailing service that offers window cleaning, gutter cleaning, and power washing services. In this installment, Greg explains everything homeowners need to know in order to clean gutters safely.

Heads up: This is a tutorial, and includes the basic steps required to clean your gutters. It’s entirely possible to DIY this project, but if you don't feel comfortable completing the steps yourself, please hire a professional.

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Safety Recommendations

Set up your ladder in a proper, safe position; the ladder should be leaning up against a secure part of the home. Also note that if you're standing on your roof, don't turn your back to the edge. If you can't see the edge of your roof, you're more likely to fall off of it. 

Consider purchasing safety equipment like a rope, harness, and carabineers to ensure you're secure. You can find these items at Dunn Lumber either for individual purchase or as a set (that comes in a bucket).

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How Often Should You Clean Your Gutters?

Cleaning your gutters is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your home—failing to do so can be detrimental to its foundation, framing, and walls. Your entire roof acts like a net, catching everything from rain to falling leaves, and it all has to pass through the gutters. Neglecting this important maintenance can result in clogged gutters, which can lead to water seeping into your home.

To keep things working properly, we recommend cleaning your gutters three times a year: summer, fall, and spring.

In August (or toward the end of summer, which sometimes happens as far out as September), blow all the small debris out of the gutters. Often times we’ll find sand and grit that comes from the sediment that’s naturally lost from a composite roof. It’s important to clear things out before fall kicks into gear, when more debris falls from deciduous trees.  

In the fall (anytime between October and January, depending on when the leaves turn), clean your gutters again to clear out debris from deciduous trees. This is important to get done before spring showers arrive.

With the spring rain comes more debris, so perform another cleaning in May or June before any summer storms pass through.  

Today we’re sharing three ways to safely clean your gutters. In part one of this series, we covered how to remove roof moss. You’ll want to clean your gutters after doing a moss treatment.

Option A: Standing On a Ladder

To clean a stretch of gutter while standing on a ladder, work at chest height with your body facing the house. You'll want to use a gutter pole and a gutter scoop by hand to pull debris toward you. Gather the debris into piles, reaching only as far as you're comfortable. You don’t want to lean out too far from your ladder; never put your left shoulder past the right column of the ladder rung (or your right shoulder past the left column). If you don’t have the option of using a pole—or if there’s too much debris in the gutter—feel free to use gloves. It will take more time, but nothing is more important than your safety. 

If you're cleaning gutters under wet conditions (rain or pools of standing water on the roof), remove the majority of the debris by hand before you clear out the rest with a balled-up rag. To do this, start at the far end of the gutter away from the downspout, and soak the rag so that it can be shaped to fit in the gutter. Using your hand or a gutter pole, push the rag along the inside of the gutter so it pulls all the debris with it.

To avoid debris sliding into the downspout, stop six inches short of the downspout and remove as much of the debris as you can. 

Whichever approach you take, make sure you have a bucket handy for falling debris. You can set the bucket on the roof, or toss the debris down to the bucket on the ground (which requires more clean up).

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Option B: Sitting on the Roof

For this option, climb the ladder and walk along the edge of the roof, gathering debris into modest piles with a pole and gutter scoop. Make a new pile every five feet or so, keeping safety in mind.

Once the gutters are cleaned, set aside the pole and get your bucket. Then work clockwise from your starting point, removing the piles of debris by hand until the bucket is ¾ full. When your bucket is full—especially with wet debris—it can get heavy in a hurry, so be careful. If you’re not comfortable bringing the bucket onto the roof, you can leave it on the ground and toss debris into it.

Sit on the roof with your legs crossed as you’re clearing the debris piles—it’s important to maintain a strong center of gravity.

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Option C: Standing on the Roof

The third option only works in a dry environment. We do not recommend that customers walk on metal, ceramic tile, or cedar shake roofs, as these require special knowledge (and tools) to move in a safe manner.

From a standing position on the roof, walk along the gutter with a blower and blow the debris out onto your driveway or lawn. We prefer to use a backpack blower. This option takes the least amount of time, and you get all those tiny pieces of sand and grit removed. Once you’re finished, do a quick clean of the driveway or lawn.

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After you’ve cleaned your gutters, it’s time to move to the downspouts, which drain the water and prevent overflowing.

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Check Elbows and Downspouts

Start by removing the elbow, which connects the gutter to the downspout. To do this, you’ll need a flathead screwdriver or an unbeveled quarter-inch nut driver to remove the bolt that connects the elbow to the gutter. Once the bolt is removed, gently work the elbow back and forth, leading it away from the downspout to get it loose (sometimes the paint seals the elbow to the adjacent gutter or downspout).

Gutters can have sharp edges, so use caution when removing the elbow. Don’t put your hand in the hole created by the removed elbow—there may be exposed screws in there.

If something is clogged, you may have to do some additional cleanup. Before you open a downspout, put a five-gallon bucket beneath it and use a hose to clean out any remaining debris. 

Do a visual inspection of the downspout, then knock on it in different areas as you listen for a change in sound. If you hear a different sound as you move your way down, it’s a good indication that something is blocked.

You can also use a high-pressure hose to test the cleanliness of the downspout. Set the hose to its jet setting and feed it into the gutter as you spray water—if it backs up, the downspout is obviously clogged. If the water passes through the downspout quickly, it means the gutter is clean or you’ve successfully removed a clog. 

To remove a stubborn clog, work a plumber’s snake into the downspout to loosen the debris, then flush it again with a high-pressure hose.

Once you've finished up, reattach the elbow.

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Run The Hose

Do one final test with a high-pressure hose, jetting water through the system.

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Clean Up

Clean up your workspace with a broom or a blower, and hose away any remaining debris.

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Like most things, a little maintenance goes a long way. Taking the time to clean your gutters a few times a year will save a lot of stress and frustration in the future. Fortunately, it’s possible to DIY this one—but if you’d rather have some professional help, you can always call DAPrDAN.

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