Welcome to the Ultimate Gutter Cleaning Guide
This guide is provided to give a general overview as to the process of gutter cleaning, things to look out for and a few tips and tricks. The most important thing to note is that safety is of the utmost importance and any work at height should be well thought out. Contact a professional gutter cleaning team if the work is in any way precarious.
Giving thought to staying safe while cleaning gutters is essential. Gutter cleaning can be a tricky task- it’s a job that is generally carried out at height and will almost always require ladder use and / or roof access. Because you need to remove your hands from the ladder in order to clean the gutters, this puts you in an unstable position and at more risk of losing control and having a fall.
The easiest way convey the safety message is to start with the statistics.
New Zealand currently spends in excess of $17 million per year ladder fall injuries. In 2013 over 9000 claims were made in relation to ladder use and over a third of ladder accidents came from people 50 to 64 years of age.
An Australian study during 2013 and 2014 of DIY accidents, found ladders to be the leading cause of injury at home. 1 in 10 ladder falls resulted in brain injury, and 1 in 6 people hospitalised with those brain injuries would die.
PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
- Eye protection / goggles (if using a water blaster)
- Appropriate footwear
Ladders are used as a last resort in the construction industry because of the statistics in regards to accidents and incidents. At home though, it’s not always practical to use heavy access equipment or scaffolding for short-term use such as cleaning out gutters.
So before you decide to use a ladder to get up to clean your gutters you should take a minute to consider the risks. Check that the ladder is in good working order, built to AS/NZS standards and read the operation guide if you have one, check weight ratings and look over the general condition to ensure there is no rusting, loose bolts / rivets. If in doubt, do not use your ladder.
Ladders should be secured where possible at the top and bottom while cleaning out gutters. You should have someone footing the ladder when there is any chance of the ladder slipping out at the bottom.
Here is the link to the New Zealand best practises for working at height.
See section 6.11 for ladder best practises and further information
Roof Access / Cleaning gutters from the roof
We do not recommend accessing a roof to clean your gutters without the proper heights training, safety equipment, experience and rescue plans. If there are areas of gutters that are not accessible safely from a ladder you should contact a professional.
How to (and how not to) clean out gutters
This isn’t rocket science, but there are a few tricks to speed things up if you have the right equipment for your gutter clean.
Gutter cleaning by hand
Cleaning out gutters by hand is the most basic method.
Use some gloves to protect yourself from any nasties that come from bird droppings and the breakdown of organic matter inside the gutters. Throwing the gutter mess to the ground will save you from trying to manage a bucket or bag while climbing up and down the ladder. Clean up the mess on the ground once you get back down to safety.
These devices seem good in theory but because of many factors including gutter brackets getting in the way, the gap of the gutters next to the edge of the roof which can often be smaller than the scooper and because of how dense the mess in the gutters can be, it is just simpler and quicker to clean the mess out of the gutters by hand. By the time you have gone and bought this gutter-cleaning contraption you could have finished the job and saved yourself the money.
Hose rinsing the gutter
Once you’re done picking out the bulk of the mess it pays to give your gutters a wash through with a hose just to clean a bit more of the mess out which would otherwise more easily cause blockages again
Water blasting out the gutters – Competent water blaster operators only
Now this is where you will really start to save some time. If you have a water blaster with a zero degree red nozzle, you can aim the water blaster down the length of the gutter and shoot a lot of the mess out in one fell swoop. Please note: these nozzle tips are highly destructive to cladding, paintwork and other surfaces. They should only be aimed down the length of a gutter and not towards any other surfaces.
You will need a straight lance for ease of control and you will need to ensure your ladder is stabilised or tied off at the top. You should be competent with a water blaster to clear out the gutters with this method. Check your unloading pressure while you’re on the ground to make sure there’s no significant ‘kick’ in the lance which might unbalance you on the ladder while cleaning the gutters – See our house wash or building wash guides for more details on building wash and gutter cleaning nozzles.
This method is one of the only ways to clear severely blocked gutters that only have a small gap between the roof’s edge and the gutter opening. Gutter vacuums and cleaning by hand just won’t get it done of you come across this gutter cleaning predicament.
By water blasting you will also achieve a more thorough clean than you would get from a hose and by hand. Cleaning off the green scum that often grows in gutters will help to extend the life of the gutters.
Be mindful of the angle that you water blast at. Sharp angles will skim along the gutters and force the gutter mess out as gently as possible. Water blasting straight down into gutters will increase the force against the gutter and increase the risk of damaging gutters and forcing water inside the home.
Gutter cleaning frequency
It pays to check and clean gutters annually or once every 2 years depending how much organic matter, debris, trees are around. If you have gutter guard on your gutters these should still be checked and once you get a feel for how much debris is being deposited into the gutters clean as required (usually still once a year or one every 2 years.
Extension equipment to clean gutters from the ground
There are some extension hose and water blaster attachments that claim to spray your gutters clean from the safety of the ground. Unfortunately, in most cases these products fall short of a proper clean because 1. You are unable to see what’s going on from the ground and 2. Often the build up in gutters is so bad that there just isn’t enough force from these products to clean any blockages from the gutters.
Gutter cleaning and downpipe diverters
Downpipe diverters are great for establishing if gutters have blockages and diverting the flow of runoff water when cleaning the gutters. They also make it easy if you want to have your roof cleaned either by treatment, soft washing or water blasting so that the runoff can go to ground and not into the storm water. We highly recommend having these installed for ease of cleaning and for the environment.
Cleaning gutters with gutter guard installed
Gutter guard can be great when installed correctly, washed through regularly and used in the right situation. However it can prohibitive, especially when it’s screwed down onto rooflines. The situation needs to be assessed and the gutter cleaning needs to be planned so that you can keep yourself safe while using tools to remove the gutter guard.
Moss, mould, dust / dirt, plants and root systems will still accumulate and grow underneath unmaintained gutter guards
Please note: gutter guard is only effective when maintained annually
How some roof types impact your gutters
Your roof can create issues for your gutters, even if you have no overhanging trees.
Cleaning gutters with concrete tile roofs
Concrete tile roofs especially uncoated tiles or tiles with the original coating will weather over time and deposit a surprising amount of sediment from the roof coating into the gutters. This settles like mud in the gutters creating a bed for things to grow which will lead to blocking the flow of water.
Cleaning gutters with Decramastic tile roofs and Asphalt shingle roofs
These roof types deposit sediment / stone chips into gutters as they weather over time. This adds weight to the guttering putting stress on the gutter’s joins and brackets.
What do residential internal gutters look like?
Residential internal gutters like the ones in these photos below are often mistaken for a normal external gutters, because you can see what appears to be the gutter on the out side of the house is actually more of a flashing. The actual tray of the gutter sits behind it, on top of the eave internally.
When these gutters overflow they can cause gradual damage that often is excluded from insurance policies. This damage can lead to internal rot and permanent water damage and mould that grows from the inside out through the eaves and cladding.
If you have this sort of gutter you should get them checked and cleaned regularly.
Internal gutter cleaning
Regular cleaning of internal gutters is extremely important in maintaining water tightness. Essentially what happens when the gutters get blocked is that the water will overflow from the tray. There are overflow points on a lot of houses with internal guttering but these often fail and shouldn’t be relied upon. Once the gutters are blocked, water from the gutters has no other way but to over flow into the eaves and cavities of the home. This makes gutter cleaning all the more important on these types of gutter systems.
Rolled asphalt / butynol gutter cleaning
Rolled asphalt / butynol gutters are typically internal gutters and should be maintained regularly like other gutters, however, if you are using a water blaster for this you should lower the pressure and chose a fan tip nozzle when cleaning. Regular cleaning is the key so that growth won’t compromise the integrity of the gutters.
If there is lichen growth it should be soft washed and the integrity of the membrane in the gutter checked.
Damage from blocked gutters
Blocked gutters cause an array of issues including holding a lot of water which puts pressure on gutter systems and brackets, The extra dampness speeds up the process of oxidation and rust. Overflowing gutters and cause gradual damage inside eaves and cavities of homes and in the worst cases the rust grows causing structural damage to roofs and any metal products construction that are in close proximity to the gutters.
Often these problems are out of site and not discovered until it has caused irreparable damage.
Blocked gutters and dampness causing rust on metal gutters and roofs
Roofs like the ones in the photos below have slowly degraded and are rusting away. Blocked gutters exacerbate this rusting and as you can see need total replacement at great expense.
Asbestos gutter cleaning
Asbestos gutters are rare but still exist in and around Auckland both residentially and commercially. These gutters cannot be cleaned by water blasted or hard scrubbing / brushing. Use appropriate PPE and gently scoop any debris out and gently hose any dirt away. If the asbestos is degraded and has roof systems growing through it then a professional asbestos removal company should be contracted to remove them.
The asbestos itself should be left undisturbed and only the debris removed from the gutter.