Project Guide

How to Clean Gutters

Why is it Important to Clean Your Gutters?
A house with leaf-filled gutters.

A home's gutter system controls the flow of rainwater. This protects your home’s roof, walls, foundation and landscape. If debris builds up in them, it could lead to sagging gutters, mold growth, wet basements, a leaky roof or water damage to the interior or exterior of your home. Gutters filled with debris also make nice homes for rodents and other pests. Letting your gutter maintenance go can lead to costly repairs down the line.

Gutters need to be cleaned at least twice a year–in the spring and fall. If you have pine trees near your home, they will need cleaning every three months to reduce the potential for clogging. Hiring someone to clean your gutters is an option if you are short on time or not comfortable on ladders. Expect to spend anywhere around $100-250 for 200 linear feet of gutters for this service. It will cost more if you live in a two- or three-story home or if you have a steep roof. 

How to Tell if Gutters Need to be Replaced or Cleaned
A man repairing gutters.

Regular maintenance will prolong the longevity of gutters. At some point, they will need repairing or replacement to help protect your home from water damage. Here are a few signs that will help you determine if your gutters need to be repaired or replaced. 

  • Cracks or splits. Even small cracks will grow, allowing water to seep into the fascia boards behind the gutters, the shingles above the gutter and the foundation below. Replace any split or crack sections of gutter.
  • Paint damage and rust. The paint on your gutters is weather resistant. Peeling paint or rust indicates that water is present on the surface on a continuous basis. Look for clogs and remove debris to get the water flowing. Replace or touch up the paint on the damaged section of the gutter.
  • Pools of water and mold. If you see standing water or mildew near the foundation, it can indicate that the gutters are clogged or there could be a defect in the gutter system. Remove the clog. If the problem persists, replace that section of gutter and downspout. 
  • Water damage or water marks. Inspect directly beneath the gutters on a dry, sunny day for any evidence of water damage. Water damage underneath gutters can indicate that they are leaking or overflowing with water. Look for possible blockages in the area. If there are none, this indicates that the section has a crack or a leak which will need to be repaired or replaced.
  • Gutter sag. This is a definite sign that it’s time to replace gutters. Gutters should never sag or pull away from the house. Sagging gutters means that it is no longer draining properly and needs to be replaced. This may be a good time to look into upgrading your old ones with gutter guards or screens or with seamless gutters.

Supplies for Cleaning Gutters
Person with orange scoop cleaning leaves out of gutters.

The basic tools needed for cleaning gutters are simple: ladder, hose and a trowel or scoop. There are other tools like a pressure washer and specialty gutter cleaner hose nozzle that will make the job easier. The Home Depot carries all the seasonal gutter cleaning tools and supplies you will need to get the job done. 

How to Clean Your Gutters and Downspouts
Man on a ladder cleaning gutters.

Thoroughly cleaning your gutters will keep them in tip-top shape. With a few tools and an afternoon, you can get your gutters sparkling clean. Cleaning out your gutters in early spring will prepare them for the heavy spring and summer rains. You will need to clean them again in early fall to clear out leaves or other debris that fell into your gutters during the summer. If you have a lot of trees around your home, especially pine trees, your gutters may need to be cleaned out more than twice a year. Check the weather forecast before you start cleaning. Allowing a few dry days before cleaning your gutters will allow the debris to dry out, making the chore much easier. 

Ladder Safety
A man on a ladder cleaning gutters.

Safety first. You will be doing most of your work on a ladder. If you are not comfortable on ladders, consider hiring a professional.

Use a step ladder whenever possible on solid level ground. For two-story homes, you will need an extension ladder. Be careful around any powerlines in your path. Ladder safety tip: never climb above the second to last step/rung.

Clear Large Debris
A man scooping gutter debris into a bucket.
  • Put on the latex gloves under your work gloves. This will help keep your hands dry while protecting them. 
  • Use two buckets to make your job easier. One bucket is for the debris, the other can hold your tools. Hook the buckets to your ladder for easy access.
  • Begin cleaning near a downspout. Place your ladder squarely on a level ground before you climb it. Use a ladder stabilizer to help keep your ladder in place (if on an extension ladder). 
  • Clear large debris such as leaves and twigs by hand. Use a trowel or gutter scoop for compacted debris.
A man flushing a gutter with water from a hose.
  • Remove and clean downspout strainers. 
  • Fit your garden house with the spray nozzle. Flush out the gutter with water, starting at the end, opposite of the downspout. 
Check the Downspouts
Water draining from a downspout.
  • After the gutters are clean, it’s time to check the downspouts for any lodged debris. Turn the hose on full force and spray down the spout. If the amount of water coming out is less than what is going in, there is a clog. 
  • If you have a downspout that drains into an underground tiling system, you will need to remove the bottom end of the downspout.
  • Feed the garden hose up the downspout and turn the water on at full pressure. If this does not dislodge the clog, you will need to use a plumber’s snake. 
Check for Drainage and Slope
A man repairing gutters.
  • Once you clear the clog, flush the gutters again. Check for proper water flow and drainage. Look for any leaks at the seams. If there is any standing water in the gutter, this indicates that the gutter is not properly sloped. The gutter should slope a ¼ inch for every 10 feet towards the downspout. If your gutters do not slope properly, detach the hangers to adjust the gutters to the proper slope. 
  • Make sure all the gutters are secure and firmly attached to the house. Inspect each gutter section and downspout for damage. 
  • Add support hangers or reattach gutters to the fascia if needed. 
A man on a ladder painting gutters.
  • Use a pressure washer to remove any mildew and dirt from the gutters. Seal any seams and joints, then touch up with paint, if needed.
  • Now that your gutters are free of debris, consider adding gutter screens to reduce the need for future gutter cleaning.
  • If your alumiuum gutters are in need up an upgrade, The Home Depot has many styles and finishes available.

Cleaning your gutters is a necessary home maintenance task. With the right tools and this step-by-step guide for how to clean gutters, you will complete the work in no time.