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Maintain Your Gutters

Maintain Your Gutters

Gutters are necessary, even though they can be a bother. This article will guide you through gutter maintenance and repair, as well as other methods of prevention.

Tools & Materials

Use this checklist when you go to the store and purchase your items.

About Gutters

Gutter Diagram

Gutters are mounted using one of four methods. While cleaning your gutters, you can easily determine what method was used to install them by simply examining one of the hangers. This will become important information when the time comes to make repairs or adjustments. Hangers should be placed every 24" in the gutter.

  • Hidden Hanger with Screw(A): ¼" Hex head screw is already in the hanger. Power drive into fascia board.
  • Screw & Ferrule(B): Insert ferrule into gutter and using the bit provided, drill the screw through the gutter, ferrule and fascia board.
  • Fascia Bracket(C): 4 per pack; includes hanging nails.
  • Roof Hanger with Strap(D)

Safety is crucial when working with your gutters. Cleaning or attempting to repair your gutters from on top of the roof is risky business. Working from the roof puts the gutter underneath your body, forcing you to reach below your center of gravity. Add to this the fact that many people get dizzy when trying to hang on to an unlevel footing while eight feet or more off the ground, and the scenario spells disaster waiting to happen. Clean your gutters while standing firmly on a ladder.Gutters are usually made of aluminum, steel or vinyl. Old-fashioned gutters might even be copper or wood. Wooden gutters require significantly more maintenance and are generally no longer used; still, they may be appropriate in certain historical or restoration applications.

If you live in a single-story house, a good stepladder is appropriate to use to clean the gutters. The ladder must be tall enough to get you up to where you need to be without having to stand on the top two steps.

Cleaning Your Gutters

Gutters should be cleaned at least twice a year, preferably in spring and fall. If you can only squeeze in a single cleaning, do it after the leaves stop dropping in the fall.

Pick a good dry day. It will be more comfortable. Dry, loose leaves and small twigs can be removed with a handheld blower. Some blower manufacturers offer attachments especially for the purpose. The tried and true grab and drop method works well too, and it requires no investment in equipment, electricity or gasoline.

You may encounter stubborn, caked buildups. If so, they may be more easily removed a little while after a rain when they are damp instead of dry and hard. Of course, you can always create your own rain with a water hose, but resist the urge to clean your gutters with water pressure. It seems like it would be so easy, but you might pack debris tightly into the downspouts, and dirty water might splash all over your house.

Inspect your gutters as you clean. Look for corrosion, holes, leaking joints or loose, missing or bent hangers. Mark problem areas with masking tape so you can find the problem spots quickly when you are ready to do the repairs.

Wear gloves to protect yourself from scratches, and have handy a garden trowel or gutter scoop, a whisk broom and a rag. Put your tools in a bucket with a handle. The bucket should be fastened to your ladder with a wire hook. This will prevent you from having to juggle a lot of tools while climbing or descending the ladder. It will also remove the temptation of stuffing tools into your pockets - a hazard if you should happen to fall.

Using a gutter scoop, start cleaning a stretch of gutter at the downspout area. This is where debris usually collects, damming the water's path to the downspout. Work your way up the gutter, putting the collected debris into a bucket. (It makes great muck for the compost pile.)

It is a good idea to flush your gutters with a garden hose after you have cleaned them. This will show how well the gutters are draining and will indicate any areas that are holding standing water, which contributes to many gutter problems.

You may need to reposition the gutter to create and maintain the proper drain slope. Gutters should slope downward at least 1/4" for every 5'-10' of gutter. You might be able to raise a gutter by bending its hangers. In the most severe cases, you will need to take down an entire section and remount the hangers.

Preventing Clogged Gutters

Keep leaves, twigs and other materials out of your gutters by installing protective gutter guards. There are several Gutter Guards to choose from:

  • Solid Gutter Cover
  • Hinged Gutter Cover
  • Snap-In Filter Gutter Guard
  • 6"x20' Plastic Gutter Guard
  • 3" Downspout Strainer Aluminum

Protective screens are also available to put inside the gutters to prevent debris from entering downspouts. This is a particularly good idea if your downspouts empty into drainlines, since it reduces the possibility that those lines will become stopped up.

Sealing Leaky Gutter Joints

If you discover a leaking joint in your gutters, caulk the joint from inside with gutter sealant. If the joint has pulled loose, remove it completely and clean it before reattaching with sealant.

Patching and Repairing Gutter Corrosion

When patching metal gutters, use a comparable metal (aluminum patch for aluminum gutter, for example). You can coat the patch with roof cement and pop-rivet it in place, or you can glue the patch in place with epoxy and coat the edges with roofing cement.

You can also patch metal gutters with fiberglass and epoxy or polyester resin. Clean the area to be patched. Coat the edges of the hole with resin. Position the fiberglass patch. Coat the fiberglass well with resin.

Regardless of the method you use, avoid creating large buildups that will reduce water flow in patched areas.