Rinse and Repeat: Quick and Easy Tips for Gutter Maintenance

Taking care of your gutters and downpipes plays a vital role in maintaining the overall structural integrity of your home, office, or factory. Effective, efficient roof drainage prolongs the life of your roof and protects your property, channelling water away from your home or workplace and its foundations. It also prevents mishaps such as rainwater backing up and overflowing into eaves and ceilings; trapped wet leaves that cause lead corrosion and rust; and even contamination of stormwater systems.

Luckily, gutter maintenance is relatively easy to implement yourself. Just keep in mind that if your gutters are beyond repair, you will need to call in the professionals; under Victorian Building Authority regulations, a registered or a licenced plumber must carry out any installation, alteration or repair to guttering and downpipes.

Basic Gutter Maintenance

It’s always a good idea to inspect and clean your gutters and downpipes about twice a year. The best times to undertake these inspections are at the end of Autumn (after all the trees have shed their leaves) and six month later, at the end of Spring. If your property is surrounded by trees, that are likely to drop leaves and clog your gutters, you may need to clean your gutters more regularly than twice a year.

In order to clean your gutters and downpipes, follow these simple steps:

  • Check the weather forecast for a few days prior to cleaning. It’s best to clean your gutters after a few days without rain. That way, any debris in your gutters will be dry, and much easier to remove.
  • Make sure you have the following equipment on hand: a ladder, a trowel, buckets, a hose, and a gutter cleaning attachment for your hose (if available).
  • Keep in mind that cleaning gutters obviously requires you to work at heights, on a ladder, for an extended period of time. If you are not comfortable with this, it might be worth calling in a professional. If you decide to go ahead, make sure that your ladder is always positioned on flat, solid ground and that you do not climb above the second-top rung. In addition, keep an eye out for obstructions or dangers, such as power lines.
  • To make your life easier, use two buckets at all times: one to collect any debris that you clear out of your gutter, and one to carry your tools. This frees up your hands when climbing up and down the ladder. Don’t try to carry tools in your pockets. Chances are they’ll fall out, you’ll try to catch them and loose your balance. Alternatively, you can use the ‘scoop and drop’ method of gutter cleaning, where you simply drop any debris onto the ground below. This saves multiple trips up and down a ladder to empty your bucket. Just be sure not to slip on any of the wet leaves and debris that you drop on the ground.
  • Always start your cleaning near the downpipe. Clear away any large debris, such as twigs, leaves and sticks first. Then use a trowel to remove any packed in debris, like dirt or mud.
  • Remove, clean, and reposition any downpipe strainers.
  • Once all the large debris has been removed, use a hose to flush out any residual, small material that remains. Start at the end furthest away from the downpipe. If you have a gutter cleaning attachment, you can use this now.
  • If the water still doesn’t drain, you most likely have a clog in your downpipe. In this case, remove the bottom end of the downpipe. You might have to remove some screws or nails to do so. Just be sure to put any screws in a safe place so that you can use them when reinstalling the downpipe.
  • With your hose set at full power, feed it up the downpipe from the bottom, in order to dislodge any debris clogging the pipe. If this still doesn’t work, you may need to use a plumber’s snake.
  • Once the debris is cleared, reinstall the end of the downpipe and flush the entire gutter and downpipe one more time, just to be sure it is draining correctly.
  • If there is any standing water in your guttering, this could indicate that your guttering is not sloped correctly. In this case, you will need to call in a professional to undertake repairs.
  • Above all, make sure that you always work safely, particularly when using a ladder, and, if in doubt, call a professional.

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