BK Home Inspections > Blog > Timely Tips > Cleaning Your Gutters

Cleaning Your Gutters

Clean your gutters.

During a rainstorm, gutters route runoff from a very large surface–a home’s roof-to where it can drain away from the house. By doing so, they protect siding, windows, doors, and foundations from water damage and help prevent flooding in basements.

To do their job, gutters and downspouts must be clear of leaves and debris. If they aren’t, drain outlets will dam up and rainwater will fill the gutters, back up, overflow, and eventually pull gutters loose from their mountings. Water that pools in troughs will rot wood gutters and rust sheet metal ones.

So, you need to have clean gutters to avoid major problems in and around your home. You can hire a service to clean your gutters, but if you are able to, doing the work yourself you can save $100 or more.

Plan to clean gutters at least twice a year–more often if the roof is directly beneath trees. But only take on this task yourself if you know you can work safely from a ladder or the roof. If your roof is higher than a single story or you’re unsure of your job’s safety, you’re better off hiring a professional.

Scoop out loose debris.

Starting at a drain outlet at the low end of a gutter, use a narrow garden trowel to scoop out loose debris, working away from the drain outlet. It’s usually easiest to do this when the debris is slightly damp and pliable, not soggy or dried and encrusted. To minimize cleanup later, you can scoop the debris into a plastic garbage can liner.

Blast out the gutters with a hose.

Using an on/off high-pressure nozzle mounted at the end of a water hose, wash out each length of gutter, working toward the drain outlet. This can be a messy job–avoid splattering mud all over your house. If necessary, use a stiff scrub brush to break loose encrusted dirt.

Clear obstructions in drainpipes.

If water doesn’t drain freely through drainpipes, try flushing debris down them with the hose. If that doesn’t work, use a plumber’s auger (snake) to free and pull out debris from the bottom as shown. You can help keep the drainpipes free of debris by installing leaf strainers in at the tops (these are available at home improvement centers and hardware stores).

Repair leaks.

If you see areas where water is leaking through seams between gutter sections, mark the leak locations with chalk, allow the gutter to dry completely, then seal the leaks from inside with gutter seal.

Re-align sagging gutters.

If gutters are not sloped properly at a pitch of 1 inch for each 20 feet of length, they won’t drain properly toward downspouts. To support sagging gutters, bend or add new hangers, or add new fasteners.

Make sure extensions are long enough.

Extensions are critical to route water away from the foundation. Make sure the slope of the grading is proper to keep the water going in the right direction. This will help ensure a dry basement.


Bob Beisbier, owner of BK Home Inspection, is a Certified Master Home Inspector who has been providing professional and thorough home inspections in southeast Wisconsin for over 12 years. Bob is Infrared certified, DILHR Certified, and provides Home Energy Tune-ups, Environmental Data Reports, Pre-sale Home Inspections and Pre-offer Home Inspections.