Cleaning Gutters High on Your Home

Cleaning gutters on a house or building is normally pretty easy—that is, if you’re working on a building of “normal” size.

What do you do if you want to clean gutters that are really high up?

This may be the case if you’re responsible for maintaining a three-story home, a multi-story apartment building, or a tall warehouse or similar industrial property. Suddenly, gutter cleaning is transformed into a dangerous undertaking.

The straightforward answer to this conundrum is to hire a professional gutter cleaner to handle it. But if that’s not economically viable, here are some tips on doing it yourself:

Finding The Right Ladder

Ladders are available in heights of up to 40 feet for consumers. But make sure that you err on the side of caution when picking out a ladder: after all, it’s better to be too long than too short. Don’t assume that you can safely clean a 32-foot high gutter with a 24-foot ladder and a two-foot long cleaning tool, just because you are six feet tall.

If you don’t want to purchase an extra-tall ladder, many home improvement retailers or hardware stores will let you rent one for a short period of time. You may also want to rent (or buy) a ladder stabilizer to prevent sway and sliding. When possible, acquire a ladder with a platform on which you can set tools or equipment (more on this later).

When setting up your ladder, be sure to stay well clear of any power lines, tree branches, or other similar high-altitude dangers. If you are working on a structure with multi-level roofs, try to climb on top of lower roofs to access the gutters on higher roofs. You may need a second person to help you pull the ladder up to the lower-level roof.

Ladder Alternatives

You don’t necessarily have to use a traditional ladder to access high gutters. If it is feasible, you may want to go with a different option:

  • Rolling ladder. These “stairs on wheels” are commonly used inside warehouses to reach the tops of shelves or pallet stacks.
  • Scissor lift. This piece of equipment lets you stand on a platform and operate a handheld control panel to raise it up to the level of your gutters.
  • Scaffolding. It may take more time to construct, but it might be cheaper—and you will have more square footage to set down various cleaning tools.
  • Cherry picker. Utility companies use it to get to the tops of power poles, and it can work for gutter cleaning as well—if you can get the truck close enough to your building.

Chances are, you won’t be able to efficiently clean your high gutters with a hand spade and a brush.

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Getting Up on a High Roof

If you prefer to see what you’re cleaning out of your gutters, you may need to find a way up to the elevated roof. Again, use lower-level roofs for access if possible and enlist the help of an assistant to make sure ladders stay where they’re supposed to.

If the roof pitch is steep or you’re worried about falling, consider taking a rope or even rock-climbing gear up to the rooftop with you. Then you can secure yourself to a chimney, air conditioning platform, or other structure to provide a safety line for you while you work.

Gutter Cleaning Tools

Chances are, you won’t be able to efficiently clean your high gutters with a hand spade and a brush. The two most common gutter cleaning tools of choice are a leaf blower and a shop vacuum, and there are special attachments available that are designed to clean out gutter debris. If these devices require electricity, you’ll need more than enough extension cord to reach from the outlet up to your shop-vac or leaf blower on your ladder platform. Just be sure to secure your equipment properly to the platform so it doesn’t go tumbling to the ground while you are working (possibly taking you with it).

A power washer is also an effective apparatus in gutter cleaning, but of course you’ll need enough hose to reach down to an external water spigot. Follow the same rules for securing a power washer as you would a leaf blower or shop-vac. Power washers can also be used with telescopic wands or attachments which are capable of reaching up as high as 24 feet.

Staying Safe

However you choose to clean your high gutters, don’t do it on a windy day. A heavy gust is powerful enough to throw you off balance or even topple your equipment. Also, high gutter cleaning is at least a two-man job (if for no other reason than to reset your ladder if it falls down while you’re up on the roof), so don’t try to go it alone. And while you’re on a ladder or roof, never reach if you can step closer to your target. People fall off ladders and roofs all the time—so don’t be the next person in the emergency room just because you wanted to save a few seconds.