How to Clean & Repair Gutters

Gutters and downspouts keep water away from your home’s foundation and are essential to any home’s structural health. By taking care of your roof’s drainage system, you can extend the life of your roof and help prevent water damage to your home. Follow the steps below to learn how to effectively clean, repair and maintain your gutters and downspouts.

Clean Gutters and Downspouts

A clean gutter is a properly functioning gutter. Here’s how to keep them clean, clog-free and running smoothly.

Step 1: Inspect gutters

Before you can clean your gutters, you have to determine what kind of shape they’re in. If your gutters show any signs of corrosion, look for holes or leaking joints and check for any loose, missing or bent gutter hangers. Use masking tape to mark where there are problems so you can go back to them quickly when you are ready to make repairs.

Step 2: Clean Them Out

For water to flow through your gutters unfettered, you need to remove the debris that can collect in gutters. Handheld blowers or wet/dry vacuums are effective tools for removing debris, particularly on dry days when leaves are loose and light. Blow out as much loose debris as possible and collect it in yard refuse bags.

Use a gutter scoop to remove compacted debris. Attach a bucket to your ladder with a wire hook for more efficient collection or to carry tools. Start at the downspouts and work your way in, but avoid pushing debris together—this can create more clogs.

Safety Alerts!

Wear heavy gloves for protection. Sharp objects such as thorns and roofing nails can end up in gutters.

Take the necessary precautions when working on a ladder. When using a ladder to reach high areas, you may want to invest in an adjustable ladder stabilizer.

Step 3: De-clog the Downspout

If you have a clog, but can’t tell where, check the downspout. Clogs can happen where the downspout connects to the gutter. Remove the elbow joint and inspect all parts for clogs. If the blockage is out of reach, de-clog from the bottom up to avoid packing the clog tighter. If the downspout is still not clear, run a garden hose through the downspout and turn on the water full blast until the clog breaks apart. If the clog is stubborn, try using a plumber’s snake in a similar manner. If that doesn’t work, pull down the downspout and use a broom handle to clear the blockage.

Repair and Maintain Metal Gutters and Downspouts

Sometimes it’s more than a clump of muck and leaves preventing your gutters from working properly. You may need to make some minor repairs.

Step 1: Repair Small Holes

Repair any small holes or cracks in your gutters and downspouts with a gutter patching kit.

Step 2: Patch Leaks and Tears

Remove any rust or peeling paint with a stainless steel wire brush. Cover the scraped area with a rust treatment solution or rust-inhibiting paint and allow it to dry. Apply a 1/8″ thick layer of gutter repair cement or roof cement. To prevent a dam from forming, you’ll need to flatten and smooth the edges of the cement. While the cement is still wet, cover the area with strips of heavy aluminum foil. Press the patch down tightly with a dry cloth to finish.

Helpful Tip

When joining two pieces of patch material, overlap them in the direction of water flow. Cement the edges together securely to prevent liquid from leaking at the seam. This will also maximize drainage speed.

Step 3: Replace Damaged Gutter Sections

If you need to replace a gutter section, remove any gutter hangers that are in or around the damaged area using a screwdriver or pry bar, depending on the type of gutters you have. Put a 4″ x 4″ block of wood inside the width of the gutter to prevent the gutter from becoming misshaped when you add pressure. Remove the faulty gutter section with a hacksaw, and then cut a new section of gutter that is 2″ longer than the damaged area on each side to allow for overlap.

Using a stainless steel wire brush, scrub the inside edges of the existing gutter. Caulk the inside area about 2″ in on the sides and bottom with gutter caulk. Center the new piece into the old gutter so the caulk is covered on both ends and press it in. Screw or rivet the pieces together, caulking over exposed screws. Reattach the gutter hangers when you’re finished.

Step 4: Adjust Pitch of Gutters

When your gutters were first installed, they had a drop of approximately 1/16″ for each foot of gutter. Make sure the drops are still there; if not, you’ll need to readjust the pitch of your gutters. Use chalk and a level to take a reading and record the slope of your gutters.

Another way to check the pitch is to pour a bucket of water into the gutter and observe the flow. If it runs off without leaving pools of water in the gutter, the gutter is set properly. Any high or low spots can often be corrected by slightly bending the hanger that supports the gutter. You may need to add additional gutter hangers to raise or lower the slope of the gutter at any given point.

Step 5: Install Gutter Screens or Guards

Once your gutters are cleaned and repaired, you’ll want to keep them that way. To prevent gutters from filling with leaves and other debris, install a metal gutter screen or, ideally, an aluminum gutter guard. Watch out for inexpensive screens. Inexpensive screens might keep leaves out of your gutter, but they can trap leaves near the screen and cause other problems. Gutter guards extend across the entire width of the gutter, allowing water to enter while leaves and foreign materials go over the side.

Nice work. Now you can rest assured your gutters will work without clogging during even the worst storms and will protect your home the way they should.

Clean Gutters and Downspouts: Project Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.

Repair and Maintain Metal Gutters and Downspouts: Project Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.