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During the colder months, most of us don't pay as much attention to what's going on on the exterior of the house. All the while, harsh weather is taking its toll -- and the house's gutters are working overtime to collect and carry away rain water and melted snow from the roof, expelling it through downspouts.

Along the way, leaves, twigs and other debris also collect in gutters and downspouts, clogging them and blocking water flow. This can lead to rot and other water-related damage to your home's exterior and foundation. The debris can also become a breeding ground for weeds and other plants. Gutters and downspouts need to be cleaned yearly. The accumulation of debris over just one year is amazing (and a little disgusting)

Cleaning the gutters is a simple DIY task. In some situations it might make sense to climb on the roof, but in most cases a ladder is the safest choice. It's best to have a partner with you, holding the ladder and ready to help as needed.

Tarp or bucket
Scoop -- A gardening spade, old kitchen utensil or modified milk jug will all work just fine
Plumbers snake (if needed)

1. Lay the tarp out below the ladder. This is where you'll drop the debris. Some people prefer to use a bucket.

2. Put on rubber gloves to protect your hands from screws, sharp twigs or other mystery items that might be hiding in your gutter gunk.

3. Lean the ladder up against the house, but not against the gutter. The gutter's thin metal will dent or bend easily under the pressure of a ladder. If resting the ladder against the house isn't an option, there are some ladder accessories that keep the ladder in place without damaging the gutters.

4. Pick out any branches or other big obstructions. To avoid clogging the downspout, start in a corner, working away from the downspout.

5. Scoop the debris out of the gutter, and drop it on the tarp.

6. Cover as much distance as you can without overreaching, then move the ladder to the next section.

7. Use a garden hose to spray any dirt that is packed too tightly for the scoop. The water should run freely out the downspout. If it doesn't, try working it away with water pressure from the hose. If the downspout is still clogged, use a plumbers snake.

gutter debris shieldSentinel Gutter Debris Shield. Photo: Great Northwest Gutters

When you're finished, put all that gutter build-up to good use by adding it to your compost.

If cleaning gutters every year seems like an arduous task, try installing a gutter debris shield. It lets water in but filters out solid material.

It's not often that you're up close and personal with your gutters so take this opportunity to inspect them for damage as well. Dents, holes and cracks may have surfaced over the winter months and should be repaired as soon as possible.

  • CJ

    Just wanted to drop in and let your readers know that there is an easier, safer, faster, and cleaner method available now for all of us to clean out our rain gutters. Its so easy, I do them more often and have less gutter repairs all year long. I researched the web and found a brand new tool, Made In USA (no lead content) that attaches to most standard wet/dry vacuums that have a 2.5" hose. The Gutter Clutter Buster attachment tool fits snugly onto the vac hose and all I had to do was place it in my rain gutter, turn my wet/dry vac on and it literally "vacuumed out" all gutter debris, wet and dry, pine needles, pine straw, small trees (lol), stagnant water, and even a bird's nest! All this while I stayed firmly on the ground. No ladders needed with this great tool. I encourage everyone who participates in rainwater harvesting to consider this tool, as well. Keep your rain gutters running freely and cleaner, so your rainwater remains cleaner as it enters your rain barrels. The gutter debris goes directly into the vac's canister which when its full, I just dump it into my compost pile and some around my plants for an extra layer of mulch. Getting this tool and the 54" extension lets me get my second story gutters done as well, without a ladder. It has saved me time, money, energy, and above all kept me safer while doing that once nasty job. Its a win-win situation for our whole family. My kids enjoy doing it as well.

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