Cleaning Gutters and Downspouts


Rain falls on the roof so that it doesn’t fall on you, your furniture, or your floors. But after hitting the roof, the water doesn’t disappear. It has to go somewhere, and that’s what your gutters are for. The gutters are an important part of your roof, channeling rainwater and snow melt to downspouts where it can harmlessly flow to ground.

Over time, the gutters can become clogged with debris: plant matter, soil, animal droppings, and items chucked up onto the roof by the neighborhood kids (of all ages). A clogged gutter fails to sluice water to the proper downspout, eventually allowing it to overflow and fall in a sheet from the roof edge. This is a problem if that falling sheet of water requires you to walk through it on leaving the house, obviously, but it’s potentially more than a nuisance. Water seeping into the ground can affect the foundation of your home, damaging the basement and rendering the house less stable. For this reason, gutters should be cleaned twice a year as part of your roof inspection and maintenance.

Cleaning gutters is an easy task and requires only a few tools:

  • Work gloves
  • A ladder
  • Something to scoop leaves with
  • A bucket (optional)

Cleaning the gutter basically involves climbing up the ladder and scooping the mess out with the scooper. Variations involve what to do with the gutter crud as you scoop it.

One easy method for cleaning the gutter requires that your bucket have a wire handle and be made of plastic. Cut the handle in two and bend the halves into hooks so it can perch on the side of the gutter. (Failing the wire handle requirement, you can still make this work by bending coat hangers into the appropriate shape and attaching to the bucket. The plastic bucket part is de rigeur, however, as a metal bucket will be too heavy.)

Hang the bucket from the gutter and scoop leaves and other debris into the bucket as you move along. Empty the bucket frequently.

Another alternative is to spread a tarp or ground cloth under the gutters and simply drop the debris onto the cloth. As you move along the gutters, simply scoot the cloth along so it remains under where you’re dropping stuff. Empty the cloth into a compost pile or trash can as it gets full.

It’s a messy job, of course, but highly recommended. Here is some more detailed information on cleaning gutters.