Need to clean your gutters? Here’s what you need to know.


Cleaning your home’s gutters is a messy job, but someone has to do it. Gutters clogged and clogged with leaves can cause major problems, including damp basements, crumbling siding or trim, and water-damaged interior walls.

If you want to do the gunk removal yourself, there are several general guidelines you should follow.

  • How often you need to deal with the mess depends on how much tree cover you have near your house. If your roof receives a lot of leafy shade, you may need to clean in the fall and spring. But if your home has few nearby trees beyond the roof, you may only need an inspection and cleaning once every two years. However, if you are surrounded by tall, overhanging deciduous trees, you may need to clean throughout the fall and then again in mid to late spring.
  • If you install screens or gutter guards, you can inspect and clean less frequently. But these systems won’t catch everything, and they can also clog, so they still need attention at least every few years.
  • The usual way to clean gutters is to climb a ladder and, using thick work gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges and nails, remove as much debris as possible. If your gutters are covered with grates or some other protective system, get rid of the debris that has accumulated, then gently lift the guards to remove the dirt from the gutters themselves.

What questions do you have about maintaining your home?

  • Once the gutters are clean, use a garden hose to run water through them and check that the liquid is flowing smoothly, without sags or blockages. Next, check for leaks and verify that all downspouts are draining properly, spilling water several feet from the base of the house’s exterior walls. If you find a leak at a joint, seal it with gutter sealant. There are several ways to patch other holes. One option is to remove the gutter section and create a patch inside, using a material to match the gutter (an aluminum patch for an aluminum gutter, for example). Bond the patch in place with epoxy, then coat it with roofing cement, being careful not to create any buildup that will block water flow.
  • If any nails or screws holding the gutters in place are loose, replace them with longer galvanized metal screws. You may be able to bend warped hangers back to their original shape. if not, replace them.
  • Unless your roof is flat, do all work from a ladder, not by perching on the roof and leaning over. Lift your ladder carefully and position it correctly. Place the bottom end against the house; from the top end, walk towards the house, lift the ladder above your head until you reach the house and the ladder is straight. Then move the lower end of the house about ¼ the length of the ladder away. The top of the ladder should extend at least three feet above the edge of the roof. Climb the ladder by standing in the center of each rung and using both hands at the sides. If you can’t easily reach sideways to pick up debris from your position on the ladder, come back down and move it, rather than risk a fall by overstretching.
  • Avoid power lines while you work. They may not be properly insulated; Touching one, especially with a metal ladder or standing on it, could put an end to your gutter cleaning responsibilities.

It may be worth considering hiring a professional to do the job, as gutter cleaning work is dirty, physically demanding, and potentially dangerous. To choose a business, ask friends and neighbors for references. Checkbook also offers unbiased reviews of local gutter cleaning services, which are available free to Washington Post readers through Nov. 25 via

Considering that gutter cleaning is relatively simple, we are surprised by the number of complaints we receive from Checkbook subscribers. Common complaints include poor work, mess, property damage, missed appointments, and miscommunication.

Ask each company you are considering to provide a price estimate over the phone or, better yet, inspect your home and provide a written quote. Most companies are willing to do this, and you usually don’t need to be home. Getting multiple quotes will likely save you money. When Checkbook’s undercover price buyers called a sample of companies to find out their prices for cleaning gutters for a 2,500 square foot two-story house with a pitched roof and gutters measuring 80 feet shelves, prices ranged from under $75 to over $190.

Because gutter cleaning can be dangerous, ask any company you consider to provide proof that they have workers’ compensation and liability insurance.

If you haven’t already installed gutter guards, the companies you speak with may offer to install them. Among the less expensive options are metal or vinyl screens that let water through while catching leaves and other debris that eventually fall or fly away. These screens typically cost around $5 to $8 per linear foot, installed.

The most expensive options are covers, usually aluminum or vinyl, which are designed to allow rainwater to drain into the gutters while debris is collected or washed away. These typically cost between $8 and $12 per linear foot installed.

Even if tall trees surround your home, gutter screens or guards aren’t necessarily a good investment. They probably won’t keep berries, nuts, husks, and shingle pellets from getting into your gutters, and they won’t do much to prevent pine needle clogging. When we asked dozens of gutter installers and roofing contractors if they installed screens or covers for customers, more than a third told us they never did because they found inefficient and a waste of money. Even if you invest in gutter guards, you will need to inspect your gutters at least every two years, and if there are leaves and debris to remove, it will be more difficult if the gutters have gutter guards on the above.

Kevin Brasler is editor of Washington Consumers’ Checkbook magazine and, a consumer-supported non-profit organization that does not charge any money from the service providers it reviews. You can access Checkbook’s ratings of local gutter cleaning services for free until November 25 at


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