Clean Gutters Mean Dry Basements

While you may not have thought about it, gutters play an important role in ensuring your basement stays dry. Gutters and downspouts are installed to guide rainwater and melting snow off your roof and away from your home's foundation. If gutters get clogged with leaves, seeds or bird droppings, water can't drain and will eventually back up and overflow the gutters. When the gutters overflow, the water falls right down against the side of your house and against your foundation walls where it could eventually work its way right inside. As well, overflowing water can rot the edges of your roof leading to costly repairs. Even if the gutters don't overflow, water trapped in a gutter provides an ideal spot for mosquitoes to breed. All good reasons why you should keep your gutters clean. Here's how to do it safely.

Cleaning gutters usually means working on a ladder

  • To get high enough to clean your gutters, you will be working from a ladder, so ladder safety should be your most important consideration when cleaning gutters.
  • Always place your ladder on a stable, level area and if possible have someone hold the ladder to make sure it doesn't slip.
  • An extension ladder works best since it will reach up above the level of your roof line. Place the ladder against the gutter (make sure the gutter doesn't get damaged by putting a small piece of wood (like a short piece of 2" X 4") inside.
  • A couple of safety rules you should always follow when working from a ladder are:]
  • Never reach out too far to the left or right (make sure the middle of your chest stays inside the sides of the ladder)
  • Never climb on or work from the top two rungs.

Cleaning your gutters

  • Cleaning gutters is a messy job so prepare properly. Wear sturdy, leather work gloves to protect your hands and it's a good idea to protect your eyes by wearing safety glasses.
  • Start by positioning your ladder at a low spot of your gutter (usually at a downspout) then scrape out the built up accumulation up of leaves, twigs, seeds and bird droppings. The work gloves should protect your hands or you could also use a garden trowel that fits inside the gutter.
  • Drop the debris onto the ground as you work (it's easy to rake it up when the job's done) or carry a plastic garbage bag up with you and put it in there.
  • Work your way along the gutter from the low end towards the higher end, always climbing down and moving the ladder, making sure not to reach out too far, as you work your way along.
  • The debris is easiest to remove when it's just damp (not soaking wet or dried out), so if it hasn't rained in a few days when you decide it's time to clean your gutters, spraying a little water on your roof before starting to clean your gutters will make your job easier.
  • After you've removed most of the debris, flush your gutters with water from your garden hose to rinse away any left behind.
  • If water won't drain through your downspout, it may have been blocked with built up debris. A plumber’s snake run up from the bottom should be clear the blockage.

A final word of caution

  • If you're not comfortable with heights or working from a ladder, hire a professional to clean your gutters. It may cost a few dollars, but your health and safety is worth it.
Murray Anderson is an experienced freelance writer with over 500 articles published on the web as well as in print magazines and newspapers in both the United States and Canada. He writes on a wide range of topics and is a regular contributor to He can be contacted at