The Art of Gutter Cleaning

A rubber-gloved hand pulling dead leaves out of a gutter on a rainy day.

Like it or not, when fall approaches, it's time to clean the gutters. Good homeowners do this project each year to properly maintain their homes. What you may not realize is that most gutter systems should be cleaned 3–4 times a year.

Seasonal Hazards

Why so often? Each season, trees are doing something new to clog your gutters. In spring, most trees drop seedlings and dead twigs. Spring is also the best time to inspect your gutters for any damages that may have occurred during the winter snow. In summer, trees lose leaves from heavy storms and high winds. In early fall, you should remove leaves that have fallen early to keep your gutters flowing freely.

At the end of fall or early winter, you want to make sure everything has been properly cleared from the gutter system to help prevent ice dams. The extra weight of frozen water in your gutters can easily cause them to pull away from the fascia and, in many cases, fall off the house.

Improper gutter maintenance will lead to clogged or damaged gutters and can cause thousands of dollars in damage to your home's foundation, exterior trim, or basement.

Ladder Safety

Make sure you have a sturdy ladder and that you stay away from power lines, trees, and windows with it. It's a good idea to use a ladder stabilizer to make sure the ladder doesn't crush your gutters or slip while your cleaning. Remember, your safety is more important than clean gutters, so make sure you get someone to help you.

Gutter Guards

If you have gutter screens or gutter guards, make sure they aren't damaged or clogged with leaves and branches. They won't protect the gutters if the water can't get into them. If that is the case, it might just flow over them, making them useless even if the gutters are clean! Carefully lift the guards to avoid damaging them; remove any leaves or debris under them and then reinstall them. Test your guards to make sure they are working properly.

If your downspouts have screens at the top, clear them as well. If necessary, use a hose to clear any heavily-clogged downspouts and make sure you replace any damaged gutter or downspout screens. While cleaning your gutters, inspect them to make sure the fasteners are properly secured. This can usually be done with a hammer or, in some cases, a screwdriver.


You may find that, over time, the spikes that hold the aluminum to the fascia board have loosened. Either drive the loose spikes back into place or replace them with longer ones for improved support. When gutters are loose, their pitch changes and water overflows at low areas. This is also the perfect time to inspect your roof for missing shingles, cracked vent pipe gaskets, and bare nails.