Do You Make These Gutter Cleaning Mistakes?
Updated: May 11
It’s a task that is universally despised by homeowners everywhere: gutter cleaning. But the fact is that gutters provide an essential function to your home - waterproofing. Gutters channel water away from your house and keep the base of your home dry - simple, right?
Most people don’t clean gutters enough. You need to clean gutters at the start of Spring and end of Fall. Do not rely on products that allow you to suck or blow debris away. Power washers may result in clogged downspouts, too. The best way to clean gutters is by hand.
If you search up “gutter cleaning near me” you’ll get literally hundreds of hits for people in your area who clean gutters. Why? It’s dirty, dangerous, and not too expensive. So why not get someone else to do it? Because in a couple of hours you can save that $200 to $300 - or more - by doing it yourself.
In this article, we’ll go over common mistakes people make when sprucing up their eavestroughs, and how to properly clean your gutters so you aren’t left with waterfalls pouring over your eaves and puddles against your foundation.
What’s So Important About Gutters?
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat - if you don’t clean your gutters (aka eavestroughs), then you are basically asking for water in your basement. Don’t want that? Good, now you know you need to clean your gutters.
Picture the surface area of your roof. Let’s say you have a small home - 1000 square feet. With a low-pitched roof, you have a roof surface area of around 1200 square feet.
If we multiply this number by .56, we can find out how many gallons will fall on our roof per inch of rain.
That tells us for every inch of rain, 650 gallons of water falls on your roof. If you don’t have gutters, then you are letting 650 gallons of water fall against your home during a heavy rainstorm.
Do you think the earth around your home will divert all of that water away from your house? Nope. Water will take the path of least resistance.
And once it finds out that there is a nice, empty cavern not far away - i.e. your basement - it will surely find it’s way there in no time.
So yeah, you need gutters.
The Most Common Gutter Cleaning Mistakes
Alright, let’s find out what you are doing wrong so you don’t waste any more time or money on techniques or products that simply don’t work.
#1 - Hiring Someone To Do the Job
Maybe you are rich and blow your nose with $20 bills. That’s great, you can stop reading now. But if you are like us, you pinch pennies like Scrooge McDuck. Hiring someone to do gutters for you is basically throwing $300 in the garbage.
Why? It’s not hard, it just takes time and a little bit of effort. Now notice that the optimal times to clean gutters is in the spring and fall after the leaves have already fallen.
You shouldn’t be doing it in the heat of summer - too late. You can wait for a lovely, cool sunny day to do the job and avoid sweating your shirt through.
The only time we recommend hiring someone is if you are physically unable to climb a ladder, or if you have a second (or third) story on your house with extra high gutters. In that instance, hire someone.
We absolutely don’t recommend getting a second ladder to put on your first story roof in order to access the second story - we’ve heard way too many horror stories.
What does it cost to get gutters cleaned? It will cost you anywhere from $200 to $500 depending on where you live. You could hire the teenager down the street and give him $40, but the quality of the job may suffer.
You’ll obviously need a ladder for this job, but that’s it. A ladder is an investment any homeowner should make anyway because you’ll use it often for all manner of jobs. Clean your gutters yourself and save the money.
#2 - Cleaning Gutters from the Ground
I know, it sounds odd because how do you clean gutters from the ground? Well, some ingenious marketers at the shop vac companies have made some very funny looking vacuum attachments that look like giant black candy canes.
Basically, you sit on the ground and put it up into the gutters, and it “sucks” all the debris out.
Here’s why that never works. Have you ever looked in a gutter? No? Well, if they haven’t been cleaned in a while, there will be a damp black layer of leaf/dirt matter matting the bottom of the gutter. You can easily peel it out by hand, but sucking it up with air won’t work nearly as well.
It’s like trying to suck up a heavy, damp, thick washcloth. Few shop vacs are powerful enough to do this, particularly when you affix an extra-long, curved attachment to them.
Sure, these attachments will suck up all the dry stuff, but it’s the wet matter that causes clogs in your downspouts and creates gutter backups.
A gutter “backup” is simply when too much debris is in your gutter, causing water to come up and over the lip of the gutter. During a rainstorm, this will cause you to have waterfalls coming down off your roof and over your gutters.
If you live somewhere where it never, ever rains, then go ahead and try one of these shop vac attachments. But if you are like the rest of us and get precipitation, then don’t fall victim to these gimmicky products.
#3 - Cleaning Out Gutters with a Hose
We’ve known some homeowners who will simply sit a hose in their gutter on a sunny day and let them “drain”. How is that any different than a hard rain? Answer: it isn’t.
Spraying down your gutters may dislodge some of the gutter muck. But then it sends it down the downspout, where clogs may occur. A flooded downspout can cause an array of problems, which all end up with water next to your foundation.
If you are feeling bold, then you could potentially use a pressure washer to spray down your gutters.
The logistics of getting the sprayer hose up into the gutters, however, is something we at Dry Foundations can’t really picture - so don’t try it.
#4 - Cleaning Your Gutters Once a Year
We’re not even going to address those of you who don’t clean their gutters every year - that’s just plain criminal!
For those of you who are doing your due diligence and emptying those gutters every year - great work. Except, it’s not enough.
You need to clean your gutters twice a year, at the beginning of spring and end of fall. Cleaning gutters at the end of autumn is obvious - leaves fall, so you need to empty them from your gutters.
But why clean at the beginning of spring? What could possibly have gotten in there in winter, when everything is dead and nothing is falling off trees? Well, you’d be surprised.
Most people won’t have much cleaning to do in the spring, in terms of gutters. On the other hand, you’d be surprised what falls on your roof over the course of a winter - sticks, more dead leaves, and other debris that has been kicked up by the wind.
Regular cleaning will ensure your gutters don’t get clogged. Gutters that stay clean will help prevent leaks in your basement and will extend the longevity of the gutter itself.
#5 - Trusting “Gutterguard”-type Products or...Robots?
There are some phenomenal gutter guard products out there - and when we say some, we actually mean tons, because there are literally tons of them out there.
We don’t recommend any particular gutter guard product because we are too cheap to buy them. That doesn’t mean they don’t work, but we trust the old fashioned gutters because they work with proper maintenance. Why pay much, much more for products we don’t need?
When we use the term “gutter guard”, we are referring to any proprietary product designed to either replace or go over the tops of your gutters. These products often promise a lifetime of crud-free gutters, and so on.
Our problem with these products is that they give homeowners a false sense of security.
We’ve seen debris pile over some of these gutter guard products to the extent that actual plants were growing on top of them. The homeowners were so sure of their product that they hadn’t bothered to clean their gutters in years.
Even if you have a gutter guard product, you still need to inspect your gutters at least twice yearly to make sure they are free and clear of debris.
And yes, you can buy an actual gutter cleaning robot from irobot. We won’t waste any more space in this article about whether or not it works, but all we’ll say is that if you can afford a $300 robot that only cleans gutters, then by all means buy it.
The Best Way to Clean Your Gutters
Want to know the absolute, most foolproof way to clean your gutters? You aren’t going to like our answer, but it’s the truth. Here goes:
Get a pair of gardening gloves and spade
Use a ladder to access your gutters - Ladder stabilizer arms will allow your ladder to avoid resting on your gutters - get them
Make sure your ladder is on a level surface
Once up your ladder, use the spade or your hand to scoop out the muck
Don’t reach too far left or right - get down and move your ladder
That’s it. Cleaning your gutters is an incredibly simple job. Using a spade can save your gloves from getting too dirty and can scrape the inside of your gutter clean.
Make sure to check the part of the gutter where the water enters into the downspout - this is usually the dirtiest part of your gutter.
Now before you go and search up “gutter cleaning services near me”, please think about how easy this job is and how quickly you could save a couple of hundred dollars.
Cleaning your gutters is a non-technical, simple task that any relatively competent person can perform.
Again, if you are not able to use a ladder, or have an exceptionally high run of gutters, then get a professional.
But don’t spend the money if you are perfectly capable of getting on a ladder - plus it feels good to clean those gutters out!
Thanks for taking the time to read this article. We hope you found it helpful. Drop us a line via email or our social media - we’d love to hear about your gutter cleaning experiences, especially if it involves a robot.