Gutters are an important but often overlooked part of the roof that are essential for helping water to drain away quickly. Unfortunately, water isn’t the only thing that gutters collect—their shape makes them an ideal home for dirt, leaves and other debris.
Regular gutter cleaning is one of the easiest ways to keep your gutters in great condition and save you headaches in the long run. But just how often should gutters be cleaned? This guide covers everything you need to know about how to clean gutters, from why regular gutter cleaning is important, to the gutter cleaning tools you need for the job.
Why is it important to clean your gutters?
Gutters are designed to allow water to drain from your roof. By channelling water into drainpipes and away from your property’s foundations, gutters help to keep the walls, ceilings and foundations of your home dry. Well-maintained gutters let water drain quickly, preventing it from pooling on the roof where it can seep under the eaves, or into the ceiling and roof cavity.
Over time, your gutters collect dirt, leaf litter and other types of debris—especially if your home is surrounded by trees. If left to accumulate, this debris will clog your gutters and make it harder for water to drain from the roof. Without regular gutter cleaning this can cause a range of headaches including:
- Structural problems. If water is left to pool around the walls of your home it can cause gradual erosion of the soil and potentially undermine your home’s foundations.
- Mould overgrowth. Excess moisture caused by blocked gutters can create the ideal environment for bacteria and mould to flourish, which can be a problem for people with allergies or respiratory problems.
- Increased fire risk. Gutters choked with dry leaves are a fire hazard—particularly in areas prone to bushfires, where embers from a fire can travel a long distance and cause the entire roof to catch alight.
- Mosquitos and vermin. Stagnant water makes a great breeding ground for mosquitos and can attract other unwanted pests like cockroaches and rodents.
- Other damage. Leaks in gutters and downpipes can cause rust, water stains and timber rot.
How often should gutters be cleaned?
We get asked this question a lot, and the answer is always the same: you should clean your gutters at least twice a year, and up to four times a year if you live in an area with lots of trees.
We generally recommend cleaning once at the start of winter to remove any leaves that might have accumulated from deciduous trees over autumn, and once at the start of summer (before it gets too hot!) to reduce your bushfire risk. That said, eucalyptus and pine trees can shed their leaves at any time of the year, so if you have conifers or gum trees around your home, you may need to undertake gutter cleaning more regularly.
How to clean gutters in seven simple steps
Gutter cleaning isn’t rocket science, but there are a few simple steps that can take the hassle away, and keep you safe on the roof. Here are our top tips on how to clean gutters:
1. Use the right gutter cleaning tools for the job
First thing’s first: make sure you have the right gutter cleaning tools. You’ll need a:
- Ladder, that’s in good working order.
- Small trowel, to scrape dirt and debris from the gutters.
- Bucket or green waste bags for collecting debris.
- Broom, bristled brush or leaf blower, for cleaning the roof.
- Pressure washer or hose, for rinsing the gutters.
- Soft cloth, sponge and soapy water for removing stains. It’s a good idea to put these in a bucket to make carrying them easier.
- Rake, for picking up debris on the ground.
We also recommend using PPE, including gloves, safety glasses and a mask. We recommend using thick work gloves to avoid cutting yourself on exposed roof areas and prevent stings or bites from creepy crawlies that might be lurking in debris. A mask is also important to stop you from inhaling dust or mould spores.
2. Get set up—safely
Before climbing onto the roof, always check your ladder—especially if it’s been a while since you’ve used it. Plant it firmly on a level surface and lock it into place so that it won’t move. You should always climb a ladder with at least one hand holding it, and lean in so that your legs are providing additional support.
To avoid having to ascend and descend the ladder numerous times, take all your cleaning supplies up to the roof first. Hoses, brooms and pressure washers can be placed on the roof ready for use and gloves, brushes and other cleaning products placed in a bucket for easy access. If you don’t feel comfortable getting onto the roof, and your gutters are low enough, you can also clean them from the ladder—it’ll just take more time.
Roofs can be slippery, so make sure to wear appropriate footwear, and never clean the roof on a rainy or overly windy day.
3. Clean the roof
Most debris ends up in gutters because it hits the roof first. Remove any loose debris like branches and leaves from the roof, and clean away any mould or moss that’s growing on the roof with the pressure hose. That way it won’t end up in the gutters just after you’ve cleaned them!
4. Clear away debris
Clean one section at a time, starting at the opposite end of the roof and working your way back towards the ladder. Cleaning the gutters by hand is typically the easiest method, and the trowel can help to dislodge particularly stubborn sections. You’ll most likely be removing decomposing leaf litter, small plants and twigs, which can become dense. Either throw debris down onto the ground (rake it up later), or place it into a bucket as you go.
5. Rinse the gutters
Always rinse the gutters after you’ve removed the debris, to prevent sticks and leaves from clogging your drain pipes. As you clean one section, hose it down to remove any debris you’ve missed. It’s a good idea to have someone assist you with turning the hose on and off so that you don’t waste too much water. A power washer will get the job done even quicker, but be careful the pressure’s not too high as it can remove paint from the roof or weaken any old or insecurely fastened gutters.
6. Remove stubborn stains
If damp leaves are left to sit for long enough they can leave brown stains on your roof and gutter. To remove any stains, use a soft cloth or sponge and some soapy water and don’t forget to rinse! Also, don’t use abrasive cleaning products as they can damage your roof’s finish.
7. Inspect your gutters
Once your gutters are clean, take the time to give them a quick visual inspection. Look for any cracks, loose fittings, or patches of rust, and make a plan to repair them.
What is the best way to keep gutters clean?
If you find your gutters are getting clogged with leaves and twigs right after you’ve cleaned them, it can be a good idea to invest in a set of gutter guards. Gutter guards are typically made from lightweight metal mesh and attach to the top of the gutter where they act a bit like a sieve, allowing rainwater to flow into the gutter, but keeping unwanted debris out.
As well as keeping your gutters clear, gutter guards:
- Prevent birds and rodents from nesting in your gutters.
- Improve the flow of water through your gutters. This minimises the amount of stagnant water available for mosquitos and other insects to breed in, and helps to prevent water from spilling over during heavy rain.
- Help your rainwater tank to fill more quickly, and with cleaner water that’s less contaminated by leaf litter.
- Reduce your fire risk, if you choose gutter guards specifically rated for fire protection.
There are a range of gutter guard systems available, so we recommend talking to one of our roofing and guttering specialists about the right option for your home.
As well as installing gutter guards, keeping trees around your house trimmed is a good way to reduce the amount of leaf litter that ends up in the gutters in the first place. Lop branches that overhang the roof, and consider planting species that are less prone to losing leaves and twigs.
How much does gutter cleaning cost?
If you don’t have time to clean the gutters yourself, hiring a professional is a great way to keep your gutters in tip-top condition. Generally speaking, gutter cleaning costs upto $600 with the exact price depending on:
- The size of your roof
- The extent of debris build up in your gutters
- Whether there are gutter guards installed
- Ease of access to the roof.
To get a quote for gutter cleaning at your house get in touch with one of our roofing and guttering specialists today.