Gutters protect houses from water damage buy collecting the water that runs off the roof and directs it away from the house. Houses without gutters or that have clogged gutters allow water to fall and collect at the foundation where the water will seep into the foundation and walls. Even if your basement or crawl space shows no signs of cracks or holes, water will find its way inside through hydrostatic pressure. Hydrostatic pressure is a process by which water collects underground along the foundation wall, the soil pushes against the wall and as the soil becomes wetter and more water collects more pressure is exerted on the foundation. With no place else to go the water finds its way through underground masonry structures and leaks into the basement.

Water seeping through the foundation walls into the basement or crawl space leads to mold and mildew growth. When water comes in contact with wooden joists, support, furring strips or sills it promotes wood rot. Wood rot is a fungus that eats away at the wood fibers causing the wood to become soft and lack strength. Water is the enemy that threatens the structural integrity of the house. Gutters defend the house from water damage making keeping your gutters clean and in good working order of high importance.

Fallen leaves, twigs, bird’s nests along with other small animals making a home in the gutters all lead to clogged gutters. Removing the debris seasonally keep the water flowing through the gutters and into the downspouts to be carried away from your house is a part of regular home maintenance.


Use a rope to tie a bucket onto one of the top rungs of an extension ladder.

Put on a pair of work gloves and safety glasses.

Lean the extension ladder against the house at about a 30 degree angle. Make sure the ladder is on level ground. If the ground is muddy, lay a sheet of plywood over the mud and set the ladder on top of the plywood. Do not lean the ladder against a window or against the gutter. The ladder can break the window or crush the gutter.

 Climb the work-ladder to reach the gutter make sure you are standing on the work-ladder so you are above the gutter and can see what you are cleaning.

Extend your arms are far as possible to remove the leaves and debris without leaning. Remove the debris from the gutter and put it in the bucket. As soon as you can no longer reach without leaning, descend the work-ladder and move it over the appropriate distance so you can reach more debris.

 Continue to move the work-ladder remove dead leaves, twigs and other debris, place it in the bucket, climb down the ladder and move it until the entire gutter line is free of clogs.

 Empty the bucket when it becomes full.

 After the debris has been removed, climb back up the work-ladder with a stiff bristle nylon scrub brush and scrub the inside of the gutters to remove stuck on debris. Again only brush the insides of the gutter as far as you can reach without leaning. Move the ladder down the gutter, climb up and brush the inside until you have brushed the full length of the gutters.

Remove the bucket from the work-ladder. Tie a garden hose to an upper ladder rung.

Place the ladder against the house at the end that is opposite of the downspout. If downspouts run at both ends of the house, position the ladder so it is centered between the downspouts.

Climb back up the ladder and direct the spray of water from the garden hose into the gutter and toward the downspout to wash away small bits of dirt and debris.

If the water doesn’t drain down the downspout quickly, move the ladder to the downspout.

Poke a plumbing snake into the downspout to push a hole through the clog. If the clog it compacted into the downspout, keep poking and prodding at it until you are able to break through.

Put a high pressure nozzle onto the garden hose and snake the hose into the home-gutter as far as it will go. Turn the water on full blast to clear out the clogs. Alternate between the plumbing snake and the water from the garden hose until the downspout spits out the clog and the water runs out freely.

Repeat the process on all gutters and downspouts until they are free of leaves, twigs and nests.

Safety Tips

Have a friend, neighbor or family member foot the ladder for you to keep the ladder from tipping.

Get a safety line and tie yourself off to the chimney to keep from falling from the ladder.

Do not lean an extension ladder at less than a 30 degree angle to the house. Straight up and down ladders are not safe or secure and are likely to tip over.

Never attempt to clean gutters when it is raining, snowing or sleeting, even if the house-gutters are spilling water over the sides.

Other Tips

Consider installing mesh gutter guards to create a barrier to block large pieces of debris from getting into the gutter and causing clogs.

Keeping gutters clean on a regular basis helps to prevent a clog in the gutter or downspout.If gutters are loose, damaged or in any type of disrepair – fix them as soon as you see the damage to help keep them working properly and efficiently.

If you are afraid of heights, consider paying someone to clean the gutters and downspouts for you or you run the risk of freezing at the top of the ladder while waiting for the fire department to come and rescue you. Remember when they show up they are quite the spectacle with strobe lights and blaring sirens. It is well worth the investment to use a gutter cleaner rather than to be the laughing stock of the neighborhood. You will be the butt of jokes for years to come.