Spring home maintenance: Give your gutters some tender loving care

spring gutter cleaning
April 15, 2016 | Alliant Credit Union

Come springtime, homeowners can often get caught up in planting spring flower beds or gardens and forget all about another key, but not so fun, spring chore: clearing your gutters. 

Experts recommend that gutters should be cleared out twice a year – in late fall to remove fallen leaves and in the spring. Neglected gutters can lead to serious damage to your home’s exterior trim, windows, foundation or basement. So even though it’s a decidedly unglamorous and dirty chore, you really have to make sure that your gutters get cleaned out on a regular basis. 

Tips for the do-it-yourselfer

According to Angie’s List, the cost of having someone clean out your gutters starts at around $125 for a small one-story home and increases if your home is bigger and has multiple stories, or if your yard – or your neighbor’s yard – has a lot of tall trees. If you’re afraid of heights, have any balance issues or other physical limitations, or just don’t want to risk a fall to save a couple hundred bucks a year, having a pro clean your gutters is well worth that cost.

But if you’re handy and aren’t afraid of heights – or of working in wet muck – you can tackle the job yourself with just a few tools and a few hours of your time. 

Things you’ll need: 

  • Non-slip shoes (cleaning your own gutters won’t save you money if you end up injured in a fall!)
  • A tall ladder that is higher than your gutter 
  • A pole to prod and loosen up debris — a broom handle will do in a pinch 
  • Rubber or heavy work gloves
  • A scoop, if you’d rather not be picking up handfuls of gunk 
  • A garden hose with a spray nozzle 
  • Heavy-duty plastic garbage bags or a bucket to hold the debris 
  • A tool belt with hammer, screwdriver and nails so you can make spot repairs on missing or loose gutter fasteners 
  • A tarp and yard trash receptacle to keep on the ground 

Gutter cleaning 101:

  • Place your ladder on firm level ground. 
  • Climb the ladder with your equipment and stand with your hips between the rails. Leaning out to the side of your ladder is an invitation for a fall, so unless you really want to be on a first-name basis with an orthopedic doctor, be smart and focus on clearing out just the section of gutter you can reach without leaning over. 
  • Remove all the debris within reach or when your bucket or garbage bag gets full. Then, climb down the ladder and empty the debris into your trash receptacle or use it to compost your landscaping or garden. Repeat this process down your entire gutter until it is clear.
  • Check the downspouts for blockages. With your garden hose, shoot water straight down each downspout. If it comes out quickly, the downspout is clear, but if it comes out slowly, you’ve got some gunk in there. Crank up the water pressure to try and blast the blockage out. If that doesn’t do the trick, remove the elbow at the top of gutter and scrape it clean. You may even have to push your way through with a plumber’s snake if it’s really clogged. 

The pros and cons of gutter screens

A gutter maintenance option that some homeowners choose is to add gutter screens to their home’s gutters. These screens are installed on top of gutters to keep leaves out but let water through. Although the concept sounds like a no-brainer, there are some pros and cons you should be aware of in deciding if gutter screens are a good addition to your home: 


  • Wet leaves can land and sit on top of the screens, and if they build up over time, they can block water from entering the gutters. That means you’ll still have to clean off the screens themselves. 
  • Often, small debris and granules of leaves can get through the screen, which means you’ll still need to clean the gutter out – and you’ll have to remove the screens to get into the gutters to clear them out. 
  • Gutter screens aren’t cheap. The cost for the average home starts at around $1,500 and can be much higher depending on the size of your house and where you live. 


  • You don’t have to clean out screened gutters as often as you have to clean open gutters, because only small debris gets through, which means that it takes longer for screened gutters to clog up. 
  • When you do roll up your sleeves to clean the gutter, there will be a lot less gunk in there, so the cleaning part of the job will be easier.

Pam Leibfried is a marketing content specialist whose love of words led to a writing and editing career. After a brief stint teaching English, she transitioned to corporate communications and spent 20 years at The Nielsen Company before joining Alliant’s content development team. Early in her work life, Pam’s friend Matt explained the benefits of a 401(k) and her dad encouraged her to start a Roth IRA. Their good counsel prompted her to prioritize retirement savings, which just might enable her to retire early so she can read more and live out the slogan on her fave T-shirt:  “I have a retirement plan: I plan on quilting.”   

You might like

Sign up for our newsletter

Get even more personal finance info, tips and tricks delivered right to your inbox each month.