Maintaining gutters and downspouts is one of the most often overlooked jobs around the house. It is also one of the most important since clogged or leaking gutters can quickly lead to rotten fascia boards, peeling paint, water damage to interiors, flooding, and foundation concerns. 

    To help you out, I will walk you through cleaning, maintaining, and repairing your gutters in this guide. You can also get a quote from our gutting cleaning experts and read our detailed article on gutter cleaning pricing for average costs.

    Importance of Gutters

    Gutters are an important protective function for homes, especially in regions with over 15 inches of annual rainfall. They direct water off the roof and away from your house through a system of troughs and downspouts. This drainage system protects the home’s siding, foundation, windows, doors, and landscaping from excess moisture. 

    Non-functioning gutters cause problems like rotten siding, flooded basements, eroded soil, and foundation issues. Mildew and interior water damage may also occur. It’s best to be proactive when cleaning your gutters, as the repair costs associated with these damages will likely exceed the amount you’ll spend to maintain your gutters

    Gutter Guards

    Gutter guards shield your gutters from debris and allow longer intervals between cleanings. However, you still must inspect them periodically. This precaution is because the gaps necessary for ensuring water flow will allow smaller debris, such as pine needles, leaves, seeds, and pods, to enter over time. 

    Image Credit: Canva

    Remember, guards don’t prevent leaks from loose joints or hangers, so regular inspections are critical.

    From my years of experience in home maintenance, I recommend inspecting and cleaning your gutters semi-annually. 

    Cleaning Gutters

    Clean your gutters in early spring and late fall. When you are ready to clean your gutters, you will need these supplies: 

    • 5-gallon bucket
    • Clean rags
    • Garden hose
    • Garden trowel/scoop
    • Ladder 

    Optional tools for cleaning your gutters include: 

    • Gloves
    • Protective eyewear
    • Plumber’s snake

    Start by removing any guards to expose debris. You can then use your trowel or scoop to dislodge the debris into your bucket to dispose of it. Compost or discard the debris, depending on whether or not it is organic matter. 

    Next, I recommend checking your downspouts for obstructions by directing pressurized water through them. Have someone help you run the water at full force while you monitor the flow rate. 

    Image Credit: Canva

    You can then use a plumber’s snake to unclog any blocked downspouts. For stubborn clogs, you may need to disassemble the downspout and remove the debris by hand. Finish by rinsing any sediment out of your gutters by spraying them end-to-end. 

    If you discover that your gutters have several major clogs, I recommend hiring a recommended gutter cleaning service to save time.

    Inspection and Repair

    Inspect your gutters regularly to see if repairs are needed. You want to verify that your hanger brackets are securely fastened. 

    Use a level to check the gutters’ slope to ensure it is not holding water. Your gutters should be angled in the downspout’s direction with a slope of ¼ inch for every 10 feet. 

    Check to make sure that your gutter downspout adapters and elbows are tight-fitting and aligned to move water away from the foundation.

    If your gutters are sagging from failed hangers, snap a chalk line guide on the fascia board. Measuring from the chalk line, position the replacement hangers to ensure that your gutters are correctly aligned. Place your hangers every 2 feet and within 1 foot of every seam. 

    Finally, check for leaks in your gutters with a hose. If you discover a leak, let your gutters fully dry and patch the holes with sealant. I recommend monitoring any repaired areas carefully in the future.

    It’s best to take apart, clean, reseat, and reseal any gutter joints if you discover a stubborn leak at a connection point. You may also want to consider adding gutter splash guards.

    Today’s Homeowner Tips

    To maintain your gutters properly, I recommend checking your gutters during incidents of heavy rain. You want to ensure that your downspouts are handling the runoff without overflowing or splashing, which could indicate they are clogged. Remember that consistent gutter maintenance will save you money and prevent water damage. 

    So, Are Gutter Maintenance Measures Worthwhile?

    Clearing debris from your gutters periodically is a great way to prevent clogs. It’s a worthwhile investment, as it protects your home from water damage. Repairing leaks and hangers is much less expensive than replacing structural elements rotting from excess moisture. 

    I recommend replacing your gutters if they are severely deteriorated, as they won’t divert rainfall properly. 

    FAQs About Gutter Maintenance

    How often should I get gutters cleaned?

    Most homeowners should schedule professional cleanings twice yearly — in spring and fall. DIY-ers should remove debris on the same schedule. You can install gutter guards for pine needles to extend cleaning frequency potentially.

    What indicates that my gutters need to be repaired?

    Signs that you need to repair your gutters include pooling water, overflowing, leaks at seams or hangers, misaligned or detached downspouts, peeling paint, or rust.

    When should I replace gutters?

    You’ll likely need to replace your gutters if they are severely rusted or have extensive seam failures or detached hangers. You may also need to replace your gutters if you have tried to realign them yourself and they continue to be misaligned. Consult with a professional for gutter replacement.

    Should I DIY gutter repairs or replacement or hire a professional?

    It is possible to clean your gutters yourself as long as you have proper equipment. Minor repairs can also be a DIY job. However, replacement is usually best left to professionals.

    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Nikki Stavile

    Nikki Stavile

    Nikki Stavile is a writer based in Tucson, Arizona. As an avid backpacker and passionate environmentalist, her work often focuses on sustainable movements at the personal and societal level.

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    Amy DeYoung


    Amy DeYoung has a passion for educating and motivating homeowners to improve their lives through home improvement projects and preventative measures. She is a content writer and editor specializing in pest control, moving, window, and lawn/gardening content for Today’s Homeowner. Amy utilizes her own experience within the pest control and real estate industry to educate readers. She studied business, communications, and writing at Arizona State University.

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