Rain gutters should be inspected and cleaned at least two times a year. A good time to plan the cleaning is before the beginning of winter and again after spring. If your home is in a heavily wooded area, or surrounded by overhanging trees, then more frequent cleaning may be needed.
Leaves, twigs and seed pods are the most common culprits of clogged gutters and downspouts. If leaves and organic matter are allowed to build up, then rain water has nowhere to go during storms and showers. Then the rain water backs up and cascades over the top of the gutters, washing away top soil and damaging the plants below.
Or worse, it ends up going close to your foundation and it begins to leak. This is obviously the most severe thing that can happen. And it does, so be serious about cleaning your gutters.
Plus there could be an even more serious problem, that is that standing water in the gutters causes frequent wetting and drying of the fascia boards, which in time will rot the fascia behind the gutters. This would cause the rotted wood needing to be ripped out and replace. Another very costly repair.
You’ll need the following: whisk broom, gloves, pliers, hammer, putty knife, powered drill motor, steel brush or wire wheel, emery cloth, 3-foot carpenter’s level, silicone caulk or roof cement, exterior primer, paint and paint brush, if needed, rivet gun and ladder. I get a lot of my roofing supplies at Legacy Service in Pennsylvania simply because they are right down the road from me, so it’s super convenient.
- Wear gloves. Metal gutter ends are sharp.
- Using several widths of putty knives will make the chore go faster.
- If you’re using caulk, then buy the style tube that fits a caulk gun.
- A carpenter’s apron will give you enough pockets to carry all your tools.
- Downspout leaf strainers and leaf gutter guards will reduce debris in the future.
How to Get Started
You will need a ladder long enough to reach the highest rain gutter. Set the ladder in a safe position and, with a putty knife or scraper, clean out the gutter as far as possible, so about two feet in each direction. Push the leaves away from the downspouts. Don’t attempt to lean out farther than your normal reach. Descend and move the ladder. It’s much quicker to re-position the ladder than to take a trip to the emergency room.
If the downspouts are clogged, then use a plumber’s snake to clear the blockage. Then flush them out with a garden hose. The addition of leaf strainers over the downspout openings will reduce the chance of a clog next season.
Leaks and Sagging Gutters
Gutters that sag will also present a dripping problem. Gutters should be pitched or slanted toward the downspouts. A common pitch angle will be 1/16-inch for every running foot of the rain gutter. Frequently a long gutter of 35 feet or more will be slanted toward two downspouts, one at each end with a high spot in the middle.
It is easy to check the slant with a 3-foot or longer carpenter’s level or use a small torpedo level firmly taped to a longer board.
If you don’t have a level, then you can pour a bucket of water into the rain gutter and watch the water flow to check the pitch angle as you are installing UPVC gutters. Small adjustments to the gutter pitch can sometimes be corrected by bending the hanger support straps.
Or, the addition of another spike and sleeve can raise or lower the pitch of the rain gutter at any low point. When adding supports or spikes, be certain to pre-drill the necessary holes with a power drill motor, and use an appropriately sized drill bit.
Examine the gutter hangers to make certain they are secure. Add additional hangers as needed. If additional hangers are needed, then determine which style you have before going to the hardware store.
Typically, there are three styles of gutter hangers: 1) sleeve and spike hangers, where the sleeve fits within the gutter and the spike is driven into the roof board; 2) bracket hangers, where the bracket is nailed or screwed to the fascia board just below the roof; and 3) strap hangers, where the strap is nailed to the roof under the shingles. Loose joints can be sealed with any good exterior calk or black asphalt roof cement.
Most modern rain gutters are aluminum or vinyl. If the gutters are old and there is rust, then the rust needs to be removed by either sanding with emery cloth (sandpaper for metal), a drill motor with a wire wheel or a steel brush. Thoroughly clean the rusted areas and prime with a good outdoor primer. Allow the primer to completely dry, and then cover with weather resistant paint.
Move next to the downspouts. Replace any loose or missing rivets. Loose rivets should be drilled out and replaced. If you need a rivet gun, then you can buy one for less than $20 at most hardware stores. Check to see if the downspouts are still firmly attached to the exterior wall and tighten as needed.
Downspouts will usually empty onto a splash block. Splash blocks should be large enough and high enough to move the water away from the foundation of the house. Inspect the splash blocks to make certain they are not cracked or broken. Splash blocks will protect your house from water damage around the foundation, basement and crawl space.
Downspout definition – A vertical pipe that carries rainwater from a rain gutter to the ground. A runoff system, it often drains directly into a sewer.
A downspout is connected to a rain gutter in order to collect the runoff from the roof and deliver it away from the home. A downspout extension is often added with the intent to deliver the water to a specific place. Downspouts can cause damage on pavers or dirt and garden spaces if put in the wrong place.