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.
Practice Ladder Safety
Always let someone know you will be using a ladder to work on your building’s roof or gutters.
Use a safe and sturdy ladder, preferably one with a small shelf strong enough to hold a five-gallon bucket to collect gutter debris, and make sure to secure the bucket with a lanyard.
A four-legged step ladder is good for a single-story structure, and an extension ladder is ideal for a two-story or taller facility.
An orchard ladder is not recommended because there are only three legs for support and they can become unbalanced.
A wooden ladder is also not recommended because they are often wobbly and difficult to safely balance.
Fiberglass ladders seem to be the sturdiest, but are also the heaviest.
If you are cleaning gutters for hours upon hours, muscle fatigue can set in from moving the heavy ladder numerous times.
If this is the case, you should try using an aluminum ladder, which is the second-choice option for strength and support.
Inspect the ladder for defects, dents or loose parts before climbing.
If your ladder is fastened together with screws and bolts, make sure all parts are tightened.
When opening up a step ladder, make sure the extension-hinge arms are fully extended and locked in place.
Utilize A Garden Hose
Use a garden hose with a pistol-grip trigger spray nozzle.
This type of spray nozzle allows you to adjust the water pressure with the use of just one hand.
A pistol-grip trigger spray nozzle can be easily hung over the front edge of the gutter while moving the ladder or while using a gutter scoop.
This type of spray nozzle can be purchased at any hardware store.
Get A Gutter Scoop
Scooping out the leafy debris seems to be the best overall method for cleaning out gutters.
An excellent tool for this job is a plastic scooping tool, which can be purchased at most hardware stores.
Plastic scooping tools are unique because the front scooping edge is very thin and forms itself to the bottom of the gutter trough, making it easy to scoop out even the toughest debris in any size gutter system.
Stay away from using a metal scooping tool because the bottom of the gutter and seams can be damaged and scratched.
Scraping the bottom of a steel gutter can introduce areas to rust, and if the bottom of the gutter is already rusting, the rusting process could speed up.
Protect Your Hands
Gloves can help protect hands against dirty, rotting leaf debris that often contains bird, pigeon and squirrel droppings that are ridden with bacteria.
Gloves can also prevent painful cuts from the torn metal shards of an old, ragged gutter.
Cotton gloves can soak up dirty water that exposes skin to bacteria.
Leather gloves are not as maneuverable and tend to shrivel up when they dry after cleaning.
Rubber gloves can get poked or torn by metal shards in the gutter.
Thick, suede glove material is recommended because it is superior to cotton, thin leather or rubber gloves.
Protect Your Eyes
Eye protection is a must because one never knows what might fly out of the downspout when cleaning gutters.
People have experienced rats, birds, frogs, wasps and bees leaving at high speeds once they start removing a clog, and the last thing they want to have happen is an eye injury.
Clean Off The Roof
Rake or power wash all debris off the roof first.
Otherwise, the next rain will wash all the debris down into the clean gutter, clogging it up again.
Also, debris left on the roof can lead to water damming up in valleys, around the chimney or near heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, which can cause erosion and roof leaks over time.
Consider Rubber Shoes
If walking on the roof is necessary to perform gutter cleaning, it is good to use rubber-soled shoes.
Rubber soles tend to adhere best and prevent slip-and-fall incidents.
Rooftops tend to be moist in the morning, so it is best to walk on the roof after the sun is well up in the sky and has dried up all the moisture.
Late mornings or early afternoons are the best times to walk on a roof.
Unclog The Downspouts
Make sure the downspouts are clear.
After all the gutters are cleaned out, run the water hose down the downspout at full pressure.
If the water backs up out of the top, a clog is present.
Normally, it can be unclogged by tapping on the side of the downspout.
But, if that doesn’t work, the downspout and back need to be removed, and it should be flushed from the bottom.
If a clog is present and the downspout is connected to an underground drain, it is best to disconnect the bottom of the downspout from the underground drain.
Otherwise, the clog may move to the underground drain.