A free-flowing rain gutter is a properly functioning gutter. Often, it's more than a clump of muck and leaves preventing your gutters from working properly though. Some minor gutter repair may be necessary. By taking care of your roof’s drainage system, you can extend the life of your roof and help prevent water damage to your home.
Stop by your local True Value hardware store for the gutter cleaning tools, products and expert advice you need to get your gutters in shape, and then follow the steps below.
Step 1. Inspect Gutters
Cleaning rain gutters can be easier if you complete some detective work at the beginning of the project. Before you can clean your gutters, you will have to see what kind of shape they’re in. See if your drainage system shows any signs of corrosion, look for any holes or leaking joints, and check for any loose, missing or bent gutter hangers. Use masking tape to mark where there are problems so you can go back to them quickly when you are ready to make the necessary gutter repairs.
Step 2. Clean Them Out
For water to flow through your gutters unfettered, you need to remove the debris that can collect in them. Handheld blowers or wet/dry vacuums are effective tools for removing debris and cleaning gutters, particularly on dry days when leaves are loose and light. Blow out as much loose debris as possible and collect it in yard refuse bags. Use a gutter scoop to remove compacted debris. Attach a bucket to your ladder with a wire hook for more efficient collection or to carry tools. Start at the downspouts and work your way in, but avoid pushing debris together as this can create more clogs.
- Wear heavy gloves for hand protection. Watch out for sharp gutter edges, hangers, roof flashing, and objects like thorns and roofing nails that can end up in gutters.
- Take the necessary precautions when working on a ladder. When using a ladder to reach high areas, you may want to invest in an adjustable ladder stabilizer.
Step 3. De-clog the Downspout
If you have a clog but can’t tell where, check the downspout. Clogs can happen where the downspout connects to the gutter. Remove the elbow joint and inspect all parts for clogs. If the blockage is out of reach, de-clog from the bottom up to avoid packing the clog tighter. Run a garden hose through the downspout with a rag tied around it to prevent water from splashing back. Turn on the water full blast until the clog breaks apart and water starts coming out of the downspout. If the clog is stubborn, try using a plumber’s snake in a similar manner. If that doesn’t work, pull off the downspout and use a broom handle to clear the blockage.
Step 4. Repair/Patch Leaks
Repairing gutters can often include fixing any small holes or cracks in your gutters and downspouts with a gutter patching kit. First, remove any rust or peeling paint with a stainless steel wire brush. Cover the scraped-off area with a rust treatment solution or rust-inhibiting paint and allow it to dry. Then apply a 1/8"-thick layer of gutter repair cement or roof cement. To prevent a dam from forming, you’ll need to flatten and smooth the edges of the cement. While the cement is still wet, cover the area with strips of heavy aluminum foil. Finally, press the patch down tightly with a dry cloth to finish.
- When joining two pieces of patch material, overlap them in the direction of water flow. Cement the edges together securely to prevent liquid from entering at the seam. This will also maximize drainage speed.
Step 5. Replace Damaged Gutter Sections
If you need to replace a gutter section, remove any gutter hangers that are in or around the damaged area using a screwdriver or pry bar, depending on what type of gutters you have. Put a 4" x 4" block of wood inside the width of the gutter to prevent the gutter from becoming misshaped when you add pressure. Remove the faulty gutter section with a hacksaw, and then cut a new section of gutter that is 2" longer than the damaged area on each side to allow for overlap.
Using a stainless steel wire brush, scrub the inside edges of the existing gutter. Caulk the area about 2" in on the sides and bottom with gutter caulk. Center the new piece into the old gutter so the caulk is covered on both ends and press it in. Screw or rivet the pieces together, caulking over-exposed screws. Reattach the gutter hangers when you’re finished.
Step 6. Adjust Pitch of Gutters
When your gutters were first installed, they had a drop of approximately 1/16" for each foot of gutter. Make sure the drops are still there; if not, you’ll need to readjust the pitch of your gutters. Use chalk and a level to take a reading and record the slope of your gutters.
Another way to check the pitch is to pour a bucket of water into the gutter and observe the flow. If it runs off without leaving pools of water in the gutter, the gutter is set properly. Any high or low spots can often be corrected by slightly bending the hanger that supports the gutter. You may need to add additional gutter hangers to raise or lower the slope of the gutter at any given point.
Step 7. Install Gutter Screens, Guards, Splash Blocks and Spouts
Once you are finished repairing and cleaning your gutters, you’ll want to keep them that way. To prevent gutters from filling with leaves and other debris, install a metal gutter screen or, ideally, an aluminum gutter guard. Watch out for inexpensive screens, though; while they might keep leaves out of your gutter, they can also trap leaves near the screen and cause other roof problems. Gutter guards extend across the entire width of the gutter, allowing water to enter while leaves and foreign materials go over the side.
Often, fast-moving water accumulates in a “valley” section of a roof causing too much water volume at the inside corner or mitre section of the gutter. This usually means water spills over the gutters and onto the ground near your foundation. If this is happening, you can install an Amerimax Gusher Guard that is attached to the inside mitre, directing the water into the gutter system. For quicker and more efficient drainage, you can also install a larger elbow and downspout. Gutter systems usually use a 2” x 3” elbow and downspout. By replacing a 2” x 3” downspout with a 3” x 4” elbow and downspout system, you can advance almost 2.5 times the amount of water versus the 2” x 3” system. Note: with the 3” x 4” system, you will need to cut a 3” x 4” hole in your gutter and insert a 3” x 4” drop tube to attach your elbow and downspout.
- Keep water diverted farther away from your foundation by increasing the distance and efficiency of water flow by installing splash blocks with Flex-A-Spouts and Extend-A-Spouts.
Nice work. Repairing and cleaning gutters can be crossed off of your to-do list! Now you can rest assured that your gutters will work during even the worst storms without clogging, and protect your home the way they should. The next time you’ve got a maintenance and repair project on your hands, visit your local True Value hardware store for the tools, products and expert advice you need to start right.