How to clean gutters: easy ways to care for guttering to prevent water damage

Don’t wait until there’s a problem – with leaves dropping and wet weather, it’s best to check them now
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  • The guttering on any house, much like the facade and roofing, endures a fair amount of beating from the weather, especially during the winter months.

    Checking and unclogging your gutters might not be at the top of your ‘To Do’ list, but perhaps it should be. Looking after your gutters means you’ll be preventing all kinds of potential problems, including wet walls and water ingress into your home.

    How to clean gutters: care & maintenance

    front garden with potted bushes

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Keith Henderson

    1. Clear and prevent blockages

    ‘Fallen autumn leaves can cause a lot of problems for your guttering’ warns a spokesperson for Gardening Express. ‘If there’s a build-up it can cause a blockage in the guttering which stops the excess water being able to flow smoothly, causing spillages and drips from outside the guttering.’

    ‘Moss and pinecones can also commonly be found in gutters. Use your hands or a tool to scoop out anything in the gutters which shouldn’t be there’.

    If you think your downward pipe has a blockage, use a hose with high pressure to try and move the blockage. If this doesn’t work, use a long stick which you can push it down with.

    Scoop leaves and debris out with a gutter clearing tool or trowel (or use a plastic milk bottle with the base cut off as a scoop).

    clean gutters removing leaves and debris by hand

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Amateur Gardening

    Don’t forget the hopper heads (the holders at the top of downpipes). If the downpipe is blocked, cover the drain, stick the garden hose up the pipe and turn the water on. Failing that, use drain rods to push the blockage down from the top. Fit strips of wire mesh to stop leaves building up inside gutters.

    2. Check the stop ends

    Replace any that are missing (measure the dimensions and profile first), to stop rainwater running straight off the end of a length of guttering.

    3. Treat rust on cast-iron guttering

    Use an emery cloth to rub away small patches, or a wire brush for larger areas. Fill any small holes with roof and gutter sealant. Paint with a rust-preventing metal primer and then with gloss paint.

    4. Fix loose downpipes

    ‘If any of your guttering is loose, it is important that this is fixed back on securely to the building’ advises the expert at Gardening Express. ‘Strong winds or heavy rain could cause it to come off which would cause more problems and expensive repair costs.’

    Check for missing bolts from the clips and replace them and see if the wall plugs have worked loose. Replace them if so.

    5. Fix leaky joints

    before-winter-guttering

    Image credit:Future PLC/ Jeremy Phillips

    ‘Leaks are often common along horizontal pieces of guttering, or the joints which can receive a lot of pressure during a heavy rainfall’ says the spokesperson for Gardening Express. ‘If you do notice any leaky pieces of guttering, reach for some repair tape which should help stop the problem. If it is a bigger problem, you may need to purchase a new piece of guttering.’

    Clean the joint with a brush and wrap it with a length of repair tape that’s a few centimetres longer than the width of the downpipe. Press in place firmly with your palm to mould it around the shape of the joint.

    Alternatively, use a screwdriver to dig out any old jointing material, clean the area with a brush, then inject roof and gutter sealant around the pipe. Smooth it with a gloved finger for a neat finish.

    6. Prevent sagging

    A loose or wrongly positioned bracket will cause guttering to sag, so that water pools rather than flows away. Tighten or replace loose or missing screws, or fit extra brackets to support it.

    ‘If you have started to notice parts of your guttering sag, it will probably be due to excess water being able to sit in the pipe. You will need to purchase some brackets and add these onto the guttering to help with the downward tilt which will ensure the water can flow away.’

    7. Fix and secure cast-iron guttering

    These are often joined together with bolts. Undo these with a spanner and loosen the joint, tapping away the old putty or mastic. Clean with a wire brush. Run a bead of sealant into the joint, press the guttering into the sealant and fit a new bolt. Smooth with a gloved finger.

    house exterior

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Jason Ingram

    Replacing your gutters? Consider your options

    ‘Guttering comes mainly in two types, plastic and cast iron’ explains a spokesperson for Gardening Express. ‘With the latter tending to be found on older buildings. If you do have cast iron guttering, you may need to perform some more checks on the guttering, such as removing any rust which may have developed.’

    • Plastic: Cheap and lightweight, easy for a DIYer to fit.
    • Aluminium: Lightweight, non-rusting and affordable; can be fitted by a DIYer and painted.
    • Stainless steel: Strong but heavy, which makes it hard to DIY. Pricey, but long-life and paintable.
    • Cast iron: Authentic for period homes, but expensive and needs fitting by a specialist. Buy primed and painted to delay rusting.

    Can you clean gutters yourself?

    Cleaning gutters yourself is the easiest way to clean gutters. A spokesperson for GardeningExpress.co.uk advises, ‘Guttering checks should be in order to prevent any expensive damages which could easily have been avoided. All you need is a set of ladders, a pair of gloves and a nice day in order to do a thorough check of your guttering before winter arrives.’

    How often should you clean gutters?

    To avoid any expensive fixes down the line it’s important to check guttering every year. Performing an annual guttering check involves ensuring they are structurally sound and able to do their job, especially before any potential snowstorms or heavy rain falls are forecast.

    Will you be cleaning you gutters before the cold weather sets in?

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