Gutter Cleaning Problems and Solutions

Expert inspecting clogged residential gutter.

Why is Gutter Cleaning Necessary?

Most people dread gutter cleaning. It’s a messy and hazardous chore, but also one that is critical to protect the structure of your home from water damage. Chances are there’s already a thick layer of muck at the bottom of your gutters – and you can bet it’ll take more than a garden spade and a leaf blower to clear them out.

In this section, we offer several resources with information on how to clean your gutters safely, efficiently and economically. Learn more through these useful links.

6 Tips for Gutter Cleaning

Gutter Helmet system installed on a shingle roof
Image from Harry Helmet

Check out these six tips before you call someone or get up on a ladder yourself. To avoid the hazards of gutter cleaning completely, consider the many benefits of the Gutter Helmet® gutter protection system.

  1. Start with a good ladder. A freestanding ladder is fine if the ground around your home is level. If it is not, you’re probably better off using an extension ladder. Take a look at this post if you’re dealing with a tall structure.
  2. Cover your hands. For safety’s sake, a sturdy pair of work gloves is recommended for gutter cleaning.
  3. Use a scoop. A gutter scoop (available at home improvement stores) is a handy tool to use to clean out your gutters. A garden trowel is also a reasonable substitute.
  4. Rethink your collection strategy. Rather than tossing gutter debris onto the ground (creating another chore for later), carry a garbage bag with you to place the debris in. If you find a garbage bag is too bulky, try hanging a bucket from the underside of your ladder.
  5. Unclog downspouts. Squeaky-clean gutters don’t mean a thing if water can’t flow through the downspouts. Be sure to flush out your downspouts to eliminate clogs and blockages. If a stubborn obstruction won’t respond to water pressure, you may have to remove the downspout and use a long pole to unclog it.
  6. Consider gutter guards. Forget the hassle and worries of gutter cleaning with Gutter Helmet®! Installing gutter guards can help keep debris out of your gutters while allowing water to flow easily through them. Gutter guards may cost you some money, but you can’t put a price on the feeling of knowing you never have to clean your gutters again.

Gutter Cleaners: Know Your Options

There are several options to choose from when deciding how to get your gutters clean. Here are a few to consider.

Hiring Contractors

A professional removing leaves from clogged gutter

Hiring a professional gutter cleaner is the simplest yet most expensive solution. Begin by researching a company’s standing with the Better Business Bureau and ask for recommendations from friends, neighbors or your local hardware store. Find out more about the costs of hiring a professional.

Power Cleaning Tools

A red leaf blower

There are dozens of cleaning tools on the market designed to keep your gutters clean while you stay safely on the ground. If you own a leaf blower, shop vac or garden hose, there’s a tool you can use to blow, suck or blast your gutters clean in less time and for a decent price. These tools may not be as effective as hand cleaning, however, and you cannot see the results from the ground.

Hand Cleaning Tools

Homeowner hosing down a roof gutter

There are plenty of specialty hand gutter cleaners, scrubbers and washers on the market. These range from claw-like devices to telescoping tools. But like it or not, you’ll be on a ladder using hand tools, which means considerable risk to your physical safety.

Gutter Guards

Successfully installed Gutter Helmet system
Image from Harry Helmet

Save yourself the hassle or expense of cleaning gutters entirely by keeping the mess out of your gutters in the first place. Gutter guards easily keep leaves and debris out of your gutters while letting water pass through unimpeded. While there will be a one-time installation cost, you’ll never have to worry about gutter cleaning again.

Cleaning Multi-Story Gutters

Cleaning gutters on a single-story house is dangerous enough. What do you do if you need 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 an industrial property. Suddenly, gutter cleaning is transformed into a very risky undertaking. The straightforward answer to this conundrum is to hire a professional gutter cleaner to handle it. 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. If you don’t want to purchase an extra-tall ladder, many home improvement retailers and hardware stores will let you rent one for a short period of time. When possible, acquire a ladder with a platform on which you can set tools or equipment. You may also want to rent or purchase a ladder stabilizer to prevent sway and sliding. When setting up your ladder, be sure to stay clear of power lines, tree branches and other similar high-altitude dangers.

Ladder Alternatives

You don’t necessarily have to use a traditional ladder to access high gutters. If feasible, you may want to go with one of these options.

  • 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 room for 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.

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, 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. Don’t be the next person in the emergency room just to save a few seconds.

How Much Does Hiring a Professional Gutter Cleaner Cost?

Professional gutter cleaner unclogging a gutter

There are many businesses that will handle this dirty job for you, from roofers to handymen and general contractors. Some companies specialize in gutter debris removal. Many of them will offer you a free estimate. The final bill will likely depend on a number of factors, including:

  • The number of linear feet of guttering.
  • The square footage of your roof.
  • Whether your home has one or two stories.
  • Whether your downspouts are severely clogged.

Estimating the Cost

Prices for gutter cleaning can vary widely. For a general rule of thumb on how much you’ll have to spend to get your gutters cleaned out, estimate about a dollar per linear foot of guttering on your home. If your home is small, it may be slightly less; if your home is large or multi-story, then factor in more.

If you have a home with 150 linear feet of gutters and you want to have your gutters cleaned about three times a year, that’s an annual estimated cost of $450 to keep rainwater flowing smoothly off your roof. If you think that this figure is a bit pricey, you may want to revisit doing it yourself – or make an investment in a gutter guard system like Gutter Helmet®. Gutter Helmet® will add to the overall value of your home and pays for itself over time with the money you save from not having to hire gutter cleaners.

There’s no right answer to how to keep gutters clean. The only wrong answer is to do nothing – and allow the mounds of debris to build up to the point where water is running off everywhere and your home suffers structural damage. Then you’ll have a real problem on your hands!