Closeup of man cleaning gutters of leaves and debris on ladder wearing work gloves.

How To Maintain And Clean Gutters: A Guide

Morgan McBride6-Minute Read
UPDATED: February 15, 2023

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Spending an afternoon cleaning gunk out of your gutters is likely not an activity you look forward to as a homeowner, but what might cost you an hour or two of your time more than makes up for the potential thousands you would spend repairing water damage to your home or to your roof, should the gutter collapse from the weight of its contents.

Routine gutter maintenance is integral in keeping your home’s roof, exterior and foundation free of water, debris and other unwanted materials.

Learn how to clean your gutters yourself and tips on hiring a professional.

Cleaning Gutters Protects Your Home

It is crucial for homeowners to perform gutter maintenance annually to help protect your home from water damage and protect the home’s foundation. Snow and ice can damage gutters, and debris can clog them over time. Even small problems with gutters can easily become big issues over time if not properly maintained. Issues to watch out for with your gutters include the following:

  • Broken gutter fasteners
  • Clogs or obstructions
  • Rust or holes in your gutters
  • Sagging gutters
  • Standing water
  • Missing or broken gutter components

Ignoring these issues can lead to serious damage to your home. Gutters are designed to collect rainwater from the roof and carry it away from the foundation of the home through downspouts. Since both the gutters and downspouts need to be clear in order to carry out this task, having clogged gutters could cause an overflow of water.

If the water has nowhere to go, it will naturally fill up the gutter and eventually overflow onto the foundation of the home – and it won’t stop there! Depending on the amount of water and the condition of the foundation, water could seep into your basement or crawl space. Foundation repair alone could cost upward of $10,000, and if water leaks into your basement, your home could be at risk of mold.

Clogged gutters can also pose a weight strain on your roof and the fascia (the boards behind the gutters). If the gutters are too full, they could possibly collapse off the roof of your home, causing damage to the shingles of the roof and the exterior of the house.

Be sure to check out this Complete Fall Cleaning Checklist to be sure you aren’t missing any other essential fall home maintenance tasks.

Let a pro do it for you.

Get your gutters and downspouts professionally cleaned.

How To Clean Your Gutters

If your gutters are in good repair, you can usually clean them yourself. Be sure to take safety precautions before you start cleaning your gutters.

1. Gather Your Equipment

The right equipment can make all the difference when it comes to cleaning your gutters. Beyond a basic ladder, there are a few more items that can help make the task more efficient. Here’s a basic list to get you started:

  • Extension ladder
  • Standoff stabilizer
  • Hand trowel
  • Bucket
  • Tarp
  • Garden hose
  • Spray nozzle
  • Dust masks
  • Rubber gloves
  • Goggles

In addition to obtaining the right equipment before you start cleaning your gutters, it’s also a good idea to inform someone in your house, a neighbor or a close family member or friend that you’ll be working near the roof of your home and how long you plan on working. In the case that you fall off the ladder and become injured, it’s important that at least one person knows what you’re doing and where you are.

2. Protect Your Property

Cleaning your gutters can create a mess. If you have items or plants nearby that you don’t want to get debris on, consider covering them temporarily with drop cloths and move any outdoor furniture out of the way prior to starting.

3. Flush Your Gutters With Water

First, rinse your gutters using a garden hose with a spray nozzle. This is a good time to check for needed repairs. Running water along the gutters should reveal any leaks. Run water down the downspouts to identify clogs.

Lastly, check your gutters to ensure they are securely attached to the fascia and that any damage you found to the gutters is repaired with a sealant. If the damage is more severe, you may need to replace the gutter or call a professional to install a new gutter.

4. Clean Your Downspout

Make sure to also spend time checking your downspouts for clogs. If you notice that the water isn’t draining out of the downspouts, place your hose partway down your downspout and run the hose at high pressure. If the clog is still lodged inside the downspout, you can use a plumber’s snake tool to clear out any blockage that remains in the downspout.

5. Make Any Necessary Repairs

There are some common repairs that can be done by homeowners. This includes replacing gutter fasteners and sealant. Small repairs can likely be completed by homeowners, but large issues might need professional gutter repair.

Gutter Cleaning Services Vs. DIY

Routine gutter maintenance can save homeowners money and avoid damages. However, there are some situations where hiring a professional might be preferable – for example, cleaning gutters on a two-story home.

There are also some common larger issues that would be difficult for homeowners to address themselves, like replacing a downspout or other large-scale repairs. Additionally, any problem that could cause serious water damage should be addressed by a professional.

Need extra cash for home improvement?

Use your home equity for a cash-out refinance.

NMLS #3030

Gutter Maintenance FAQs

How do you know if your gutters are clogged?

Easy ways to know that your gutters might be clogged include discolored water or backed up water flow.

How often should you clean your gutters?

Gutters should be cleaned at least twice a year. Additional cleanings can be done if there is a noticeable clog or problem.

How much does a gutter cleaning service cost?

If you choose to outsource your gutter cleaning to a professional, keep in mind that the national average gutter cleaning costs $173, with single-story homes near the low end ($119) and two-story and taller homes on the high end ($227).

There are other factors that could affect the price of a professional gutter cleaning, outside of the size of the home: the current condition of the gutters, possible repairs or extra maintenance your gutters might need during cleaning, and the condition of the downspouts.

There are a few ways you can cut costs on gutter cleaning. You can hire professionals during their offseason (typically winter), or you might be able to receive a discount by signing up for repeat services. You’ll also want to shop around to get quotes from multiple professionals in order to find the best deal.

What is the best time of year to clean your gutters?

Clean your gutters in early spring to help remove any winter build up and prepare the gutters for the rainy season ahead. Clean your gutters again in the fall, especially after the leaves have fallen and potentially clogged the gutters.

The Bottom Line

Cleaning the gutters isn’t a glamorous part of homeownership, but it is an essential home maintenance task that can help to prevent larger problems from building up over time. This task is a doable DIY for most people and projects but can be hired out to a professional if needed. Decide to hire out a gutter cleaning? Consider applying for a cash-out refinance to pay for home improvements or repairs and check out the Rocket Homes blog for more helpful homeowner tips.

Need extra cash for home improvement?

Use your home equity for a cash-out refinance.

NMLS #3030

Morgan McBride

Morgan McBride is a DIY-lover and home decor enthusiast living in Charleston, South Carolina. She has been blogging at alongside her husband since 2012, where they empower their readers to craft their current home into their dream home through the power of DIY.