Tips for Cleaning and Repairing Gutters

Keep rain gutters clean and unclogged to prevent damage to your home's roof and exterior.
Clear Out All Gutters

Clear Out All Gutters

Photo by: ©iStockphoto.com/Charles Mann

©iStockphoto.com/Charles Mann

  • There are just a few steps to follow in order to maintain gutters. First, climb a ladder and clean the goop out of the gutters. The decomposed leaves make great mulch or compost. Pay particular attention to the downspout. If leaves and debris are clogging it, water won't drain properly, and along with mildew and mud you'll end up with sagging gutters.
  • Check all the spikes that are supposed to go through the gutter, through the fascia board and into the rafter behind it. At most homes, these spikes miss the rafters entirely, usually because the spike has just worked its way out of the hole over the years. It's a good idea to invest in new gutter spikes so the gutters are securely fastened once again.
  • Another thing you want to look at are the sources of any leaks, including holes in the gutters and cracked caulking in the seams. Use an old chisel to scrape the old caulking out and dry the area thoroughly. Then use new bead silicon sealing to keep water from getting down behind the gutters and rotting the boards.
  • During this inspection, check out the rivets on the downspout. Frequently they'll be loose or will have dropped out completely, all that is needed is a rivet gun to secure them anew.
  • Buyer's guide: Purchase new rivets at the hardware store. You can also buy a rivet gun there, usually for about $20.
  • Once you've finished with the mechanics, you can attend to cleaning the gutters. The best way is with a pressure washer, which you can rent or even purchase for anywhere from $60 to hundreds of dollars. Follow the instructions that come with the washer to the letter; usually the washer can be used with garden-hose water or some type of cleaner.
  • A pressure washer won't hurt the gutters provided you've secured the gutters with screws or new spikes. The real key is to avoid hitting the gutters at too high an angle or you'll blow the shingles off with a high-pressure stream of water.
  • If the gutters are rusting, they are very old. They've moved to aluminum and vinyl gutters now, and they don't rust. You might want to consider new gutters. But if you're going to stay with the old ones, get all the rust off, sand them down, paint them with a good primer and then with a good-quality rust-inhibiting paint.
  • A splash block is a very important element. It keeps the water coming out of the downspouts from digging a trench next to the house, and it keeps water away from the home's foundation.

Here are some bonus tips when replacing gutter spikes:

  • Remove the old gutter spikes and ferrules (the large spacers that keep the gutter walls from collapsing while you drill), installing each new set as soon as you remove the old one.
  • Position the new ferrule inside the gutter, directly behind the existing spike hole.
  • Insert the gutter screw into the existing spike hole. Use a standard variable-speed drill, electric or cordless, to slowly thread the fastener through the spike hole and the ferrule and then into the existing fascia hole.
  • Thread the fastener until the head is even with the gutter and the screw has engaged with the rafters on the other side of the fascia board.

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