Don’t Ignore Your Gutters
While it’s a job many of us would love to ignore, gutter cleaning is an important twice-a-year ritual all homeowners need to adopt. When clogged gutters overflow, they can cause ice dams on the roof that force water inside your house. They can also get so heavy that they’ll pull the gutters loose and rot the trim and siding. Even if your gutter doesn’t fill to overflowing each season, leaving any decaying debris in there is an invitation to carpenter ants and mosquitoes. If you have a lot of trees around your house, you might want to clean your gutters even more frequently.
Cleaning Your Gutters
There are lots of ways to do the cleaning. You can find inventions like tongs on an extension pole, shop vacuums with gutter nozzles or even a remote-controlled gutter-running robot. But most methods eventually involve getting on a ladder. If you have gutters above the first story or aren’t comfortable on a ladder, you’re better off hiring a pro.
DIY Gutter Cleaning
To clean your gutters yourself, wear gloves, a dust mask, and safety goggles. Make sure your ladder is well-footed at all times and use a ladder stabilizer, or stand-off, to keep from denting and damaging your gutters. Scoop the debris into a garbage bag with a garden trowel, then rinse toward the downspout with a high-pressure nozzle on your hose and scrub it clean. Try to avoid spattering the siding in the process. Next, clear the downspouts with a hose or auger. Installing leaf strainers at the drain tops will cut down on the large clogs.
Maintaining Your Gutters
When it rains, check for leaks and mark them with a china marker so you can patch holes or correct pitch problems when it’s dry. There’s debate about whether gutter caps or screens are worth the investment of up to $7 a running foot. Because nothing keeps all debris out, you still have to have your gutter cleaned every couple of years at least, and screens and caps make it much more difficult and expensive to do it.
Water Gets Behind the Gutter
If water is dripping behind your gutter, it's probably because it was installed without any flashing over the back of the gutter. Gutter apron will prevent the dripping.
Gutter apron is a bent piece of flashing that tucks up under the shingles and over the gutter. Home centers sell it in 10-ft. sections. You may have to temporarily remove your hangers as you go, or you can notch out the apron around them. Once the apron's in place, fasten it with sheet metal screws.
If there's a drip edge installed where the fascia meets your shingles and the gutter is hung below the drip edge, get some roll flashing and tuck it up under the drip edge and over the top of the gutter. Home centers sell rolls of 6-in. x 10-ft. aluminum flashing. Use a tin snips to cut the roll in two 3-in. strips. If your gutters are steel, buy steel roll flashing, because galvanized steel corrodes aluminum.
Is the sound of dripping in your downspouts driving you mad? Eliminate the problem by tying a rope onto one of the gutter hangers and running it down into the downspout. Drops of water will cling to the rope instead of plummeting the whole length of the downspout and causing that loud dripping noise.
Adding a rope does restrict water flow, so this may not be the best option if your gutter is prone to overflowing or if your downspout is easily clogged with twigs and leaves. Buy a rope made of a synthetic like nylon—a rope made from natural fibers will rot away.
Make Repairs With a Slip Joint
If a tree branch falls on the last 4 ft. of your 60-ft. seamless gutter, you don't need to replace the whole thing; just replace the damaged section. If your gutters are white or brown, adding a section of gutter to an existing section is easy. Most home centers sell white and brown sections of gutters as well as slip joints to tie them together.
If your gutters are a custom color, a home center can special-order your color but not the slip joint to match. But don't worry; you can make your own from a box miter, and box miters are available in every color gutters are made.
When you buy your new gutter section, make sure you order either an inside or outside box miter at the same time. Cut a 3-in. section from the box miter with a tin snips, and you've got yourself a custom slip joint. Hang the new gutter next to the old one, and then slide the patch under the seam.
Water Spills Over Gutter
Some roofs have long sections of valley that carry a lot of rainwater at high velocity. When that water comes blasting out the end of the valley, it can shoot right over the gutter. A diverter will help direct the water back into the gutter where it belongs. Fasten a diverter with a couple of sheet metal screws to the top of the outside edge of the gutter.
Downspout in the Way
Are you tired of removing your downspouts every time you mow? Consider installing a hinge where the lowest elbow meets the section of downspout that runs into your yard.
Installation is simple: Just cut the downspout at a 45-degree angle with a tin snips or metal-cutting blade and fasten the two-piece Zip Hinge (sold at home centers or online) with eight sheet metal screws. The hinges come in white only, so you might have to spray-paint them to match.
Every connection on a metal gutter needs to be sealed: end caps, splices, drop outlets and miters. Buy a product that's specifically formulated to seal gutter seams. Seam sealer can handle submersion for long periods of time. It's also resistant to light, which it will get plenty of.
Most important, high-quality seam sealer is runny, so it can penetrate down into the seam for a durable, long-lasting connection. Most products refer to this property as “self-leveling.” And the runnier the better, so if you're applying it on a cold day, keep the seam sealer somewhere warm so it stays fluid.
Try to remove as much of the old sealer as you can, and make sure the area you're sealing is completely dry. Home centers usually stock seam sealer near the gutter parts.
If you have a 50-ft. gutter with one 2 x 3-in. downspout, your gutter probably overflows during heavier rainfalls. When installing an additional downspout isn't an option, install a 3 x 4-in. downspout in place of the smaller one.
Start by removing the old downspout. Use the new 3 x 4-in. drop outlet that you buy with your new downspout as a template to trace an outline for the larger hole. You can cut out the larger hole with a tin snips, or you could use an oscillating multi-tool equipped with a metal-cutting blade. Insert the drop outlet in the hole and fasten the new downspout with sheet metal screws. Make sure to seal the drop outlet to the gutter with seam sealer.
One downspout, one drop outlet, three elbows and two wall clips will cost about $40 at a home center. If you need a color other than white or brown, it will be a special order, but you should be able to get the color you need.
Sidewalk in the Way
There is no perfect way to get water from one side of a sidewalk to the other, but consider installing a retractable downspout. It rolls out when it rains and then rolls back up when the water stops flowing. Products like these do leak when the water flow is too light to extend the plastic downspout, but they should keep your landscaping from washing away during moderate to heavy rains.
Retractable downspouts are super easy to hook up, and they might be just the solution you're looking for. Pick one up at a home center or order online.
Gutter Guards Work
If you have trouble keeping small leaves and other debris from clogging your gutters, consider installing solid gutter guards. Solid guards, which cover all of the gutter except for a narrow crack to let the water through, do work well. The lip on the guards relies on surface tension to draw the water down into the gutter, while the solid covering deflects leaves and other debris that would otherwise drop in.
The guards work on every type of gutter, except plastic “C” shapes. Since the guards fit over the gutter rather than inside, they'll cover most standard-size gutters. They're typically attached to the gutter with brackets, with the upper edge slid under the lower shingles.
Screened gutter guards, which are much less expensive and available at home centers, don't work as well. They'll keep out most leaves, but you can expect smaller debris, such as seeds and pine needles, to get through. Screens also make gutter cleaning more difficult, because you have to move them aside to get at the debris. However, in some cases they may be all you need.
An old plastic spatula makes a great tool for cleaning debris from gutters! It doesn't scratch up the gutter, and you can cut it to fit gutter contours with snips. Grime wipes right off the spatula too, making cleanup a breeze