How to clean your gutters and downspouts
Your home’s gutter system is critical in directing rainwater away from your roofline and protecting your home’s roof, walls, and foundation from damage. As trees around your home change in the spring and fall, your gutters and downspouts collect leaves and other debris, which can cause clogs that could lead to water damage.
To keep your gutters and downspouts clear of debris, follow these steps to clean them at least twice a year:
- Collect the tools and supplies you’ll need for cleaning. Before you start, you’ll need a sturdy ladder and someone to spot you — or stand below the ladder and hold onto the bottom while you’re up top — or a ladder stabilizer. You’ll also need a pair of gloves, a gutter scoop, a hose, and a plastic bucket with a handle.
- Clear away debris from your gutters. Start clearing away debris that’s closest to the downspout, working your way towards the closed end of the attached gutter. Remove large debris like leaves and sticks by hand and put them in the bucket to dispose of later, then use a gutter scoop to remove any hard or stuck-on remnants. Once you’ve removed everything you can, use a hose to wash the gutter, this time moving in the opposite direction, from the closed end towards the downspout, to clean up any bits of leftover debris. Repeat the process until each gutter in your gutter system is clean.
- Check your downspouts for clogs. Use a hose to spray water through each of your downspouts to determine if it is clogged. If water flows steadily out through the bottom, the downspout is fine, but if less water comes out than you spray in, there is likely a clog. Remove the bottom end of the downspout and push your hose up the downspout as far as you can. Then, turn the water on at full pressure to dislodge the clog.
- Check your gutters for leaks. Once your gutters and downspouts are squeaky clean, use your hose to flush the gutters one more time — this time paying attention to the gutter seams — and watch for any leaks. If you see any leaks, you can easily repair the cracks or holes using gutter sealant or plastic roofing cement, both of which are likely available at your local hardware store.
- Consider installing gutter guards. If you’d like to spend less time each year cleaning your gutters and downspouts, gutter guards can help, especially if you have large trees on your property. You can install a gutter guard over each of your gutters to prevent leaves and sticks from piling up.
Note: Gutter guards aren’t suited to every house. Talk to a local roofing expert to determine if gutter guards would make sense for your home (and to have them installed, if appropriate).
Keeping your gutters and downspouts in good shape is important, as most home insurance policies exclude damage to your home caused by wear and tear or lack of preventative maintenance.
What to do if your gutters and downspouts are damaged by severe weather
Severe weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes, windstorms, and ice storms can cause extensive damage to your home’s roof, gutters, and downspouts. Following a severe weather event, it’s always important to inspect your property and its immediate surroundings for damage.
If your home has been damaged in any way, or if your gutters or downspouts have been broken or torn off, reach out to your licensed home insurance broker or call your insurance company’s 24-hour claims service line.
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