Leaf Me Alone – A Gutter Cleaning Guide

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When was the last time that you cleaned out your gutters? Is this a new home for you? Or, maybe you haven’t thought twice about gutters catching leaves, pine needles, acorns and other debris. I’ll guess that it is out of sight out of mind and you’ve recently seen some other problem signs around the house like foundation damage, mold or mildew formation, insects or pests coming into the home, or perhaps worse a leaking roof. These are all additional things that can happen as a result of plugged up, dammed gutters. This is where our gutter cleaning guide comes in. We aim to remind you of the necessity and discuss how best to get it done.

The recommended frequency is to perform this maintenance once in the spring and once in the fall, and then if you happen to see additional buildup or signs of it, to take care of it on a spot check basis. You will need to increase the frequency of gutter cleaning if your home is truly surrounded by trees. This will ensure that they are clear and able to drain water away from your home.

Thankfully there are a number of ways to keep them clean. We’ll cover gutter cleaning tools and then we’ll also cover eliminating the problem altogether with the installation of gutter covers which will block leaves and minimize other debris from building up in your gutters. These should only be done if you are keeping safety in mind. We’ll cover concerns about working from height on a ladder.

This is a job we recommend being done by professionals. If you are not able, do not have the right tools, or are concerned about your safety, please consult a gutter cleaning service provider. If your gutters have been damaged by fallen limbs or other acts of god, you’ll need to find gutter repair services near you. This job is commonly performed by gutter installers who are the gutter pros!

Some signs and symptoms to watch for:

  • Are your downspouts draining water away from the home? Is this coming out fast relative the the amount of rain you are getting?
  • Other clogs can form as a result of bees’ nests, animals like squirrels, opossums or others making a home up there.
  • If you’ve never cleaned it out then you may have things growing in your gutter, such as seeds, acorns or perhaps a pine tree that has popped up from fertile conditions provided by the decaying leaves and good irrigation.
  • As we discussed above, mold and mildew, increase in insect traffic, roof leakage…

Manual Gutter Cleaning

Ladder, by hand w/ 5 gallon bucket and coat hanger

While this is the simplest and cheapest method, it is also the most dangerous. It is best to find an appropriate height ladder, and have a spotter or someone to hold the base of the ladder. You’ll also want to take up a container to hold any debris. A 5 gallon bucket or pail works well for this and we recommend a hook or making your own hook with a coat hanger to give yourself a spare hand holding the bucket while you are on the ladder.

After removing the largest of the debris, often there is residue in the bottom of the gutter. The residue is a combination of roofing grit, dust, dirt, and leaf decay products. You certainly don’t have to wash this out since the next heavy rain will likely do the job. But for completeness, we recommend using a garden hose or pressure washer attachment to remove the remaining residue after you’ve taken out the lion’s share of the debris.


Statistics

Working from height on a ladder results in approximately 164,000 injuries and 300 deaths each year. This is all from the average height of only 10 feet.


Ladder Safety

We recommend hiring an experienced professional to handle any maintenance or repairs that require you to climb a ladder onto your roof. Nevertheless, we know that sometimes you might find yourself in a position where you do need to clean gutters yourself. If you must climb a ladder, we strongly recommend adhering to these safety tips from the American Ladder Institute. CLICK HERE FOR FREE LADDER SAFETY TRAINING

  1. Don’t climb if you’re not feeling well. If you feel dizzy, tired or otherwise unwell, do not climb your ladder, as this can increase your risk of falling.
  2. Don’t climb in bad weather. If there are high winds, rain or other bad weather in your area, put the ladder away and wait until conditions improve.
  3. Wear appropriate footwear. Your shoes should be clean and slip-resistant, with heavy soles. Never climb a ladder in shoes with leather soles.
  4. Use the right size of ladder. The Duty Rating of your ladder should be more than the total weight of the climber plus any tools or other objects placed on the ladder. It should be tall enough that you don’t have to step onto the top rung to accomplish your task.
  5. Place ladder on firm, level ground. The ladder should never be placed on uneven or slippery ground.
  6. Do not place ladder in front of a closed door. Never put your ladder in front of a closed door that could be opened out toward the ladder, as this could dislodge the ladder.
  7. Observe the “three points of contact” rule. When climbing or descending a ladder or performing work while standing on a ladder, you should have two feet and one hand (or two hands and one foot) on the ladder at all times.
  8. Always face the ladder. Never turn away from the ladder during your ascent, descent or while working from the ladder.
  9. Never move the ladder while standing on it. This could destabilize it and lead to a fall.
  10. Wear a toolbelt. This keeps your hands free so you can hold onto the ladder.
  11. Climb slowly and carefully. Take your time and always exercise caution when climbing or descending a ladder. Do not make any sudden movements.


No Ladder Method

Long tube connected with leaf blower, you can optionally follow up with similar and water hose

You may have or want to purchase a leaf blower for your yard. Worst case, this article will give you an excuse to! This method is so much safer than getting up on a ladder and manually picking leaves and other debris out of your gutter. This method lacks a bit in the visual sense and you’ll have to rely on your other senses to ensure the job is done. You may have to accept that it may not be 100% clean, but rather a good enough solution. It is a reasonable alternative without needing to climb some ladder rungs. Either way, you’ll need to assemble some pieces to get this to work.

Assemble a gutter cleaning device with a few key parts. You will need a long tube with a 180 degree bend at the end, a leaf blower or a shop vac, and some duct tape.

A variety of different materials could be used to construct the device. You could use one of your down spouts temporarily or keep a similar length one somewhere else for this purpose. You can use PVC or similar plumbing tubing, or even a hollow tree….just kidding. Dig out your shop vacuum or leaf blower and make sure you have a tube connected to the exhaust port and then can use your duct tape to seal up any air gaps between the extended solid tubing and your air flow source. Tada! You now have a gutter blower.

Carefully start at one end of the gutter, angling the flow of air downward and towards the other end of the gutter to direct the leaves and debris out of the gutters. You may wish to go over it twice to ensure you’ve removed 99% of the debris.

For completeness as before you can use a telescoping hose or pressure washer attachment with your garden hose to clean out any residue.


Leaf Killing Robots and Other Gutter Tools

The iRobot company has come up with a few designs of gutter cleaning robots over the years. Their recent one is called the iRobot Looj 330. It is a tracked vehicle with a gutter brush, like an auger on the end that will kick up the leafy debris up and out of the gutter. Looj 330 is controlled with a remote that is attachable to the body of the robot if there is a hard to reach area. This unfortunately does still require you to climb up and put the robot into your gutter, but removes the manual leaf plucking duties. While we haven’t tried this one yet first hand, one thing we notice from the videos is that it certainly displaces the leaves and does a decent gutter cleaning job.

 


In the list above you’ll find a couple tools that will allow you to work from the ground. Like their kitchen counterparts you’ll be plucking salad leaves out of your gutter. This is probably going to make for a tedious afternoon if you have a large house.

The green scooping tool comes in at second place. It is a tool which improves upon an all-by-hand strategy on your ladder. But it isn’t quite as sophisticated as the iRobot Looj.

Lastly the Gutter Sickle kit seems to combine the pick it out and then spray it methods into one kit. This is likely one of the best combinations if you don’t have a leaf blower or shop vacuum.

 

We all love our tools, but we might not like to spend the time performing the maintenance regularly. Or perhaps you don’t have the time to anymore. The real problem is how do you keep leaves and debris getting in there in the first place to keep a clog-free gutter. We could cut down all of the trees around the house. But then your neighbors trees are still there to shed leaves into the air. We could switch from an asphalt roof to a steel or slate roof. All of these are costly solutions which might not solve the maintenance problem completely.

So, how do we get some leaf relief and really eliminate the root cause to the problem? Let’s look at preventing leaves getting in there in the first place.

Gutter Covers and Screens

To prevent the need for gutter cleaning altogether, gutter guards have become popular over the recent years. They act as a master shield over the gutter. While many gutter covers do prevent things the size of a leaf from getting into your seamless gutters. Their openings are still too large and allows smaller items like pine needles, insects, and asphalt grit from still entering the gutter. Newer options feature improved gutter protection by making a smaller mesh or micro mesh to go over a plastic support. The micro-sized mesh will filter out large particulate debris and allowing water to pass through.

While there are multiple guards available online, the top-rated gutter guard systems will be installed by professional service companies. These will really cut down on the need to do any maintenance on your gutters. So for most people the dynamic of the conversation changes quite a bit.

  1. It starts off with: “I might fall off a ladder and get injured or die”
  2. To: “I now have a tool to do it on the ground and still spend X number of hours a year doing this”
  3. To: “I spent some money to install gutter guards and now I can almost forget that the problem is even there!

There certainly are a number of these leaf guard solution providers globally. But we recommend you reduce your cleaning hassle, save your time, and checkout LeafFilter.

Avoid Gutter Cleaning this Spring with LeafFilter. Get a FREE Estimate now!