Taking care of clogged downspouts at your home is a two-step process. First of all, it’s a matter of removing clogs and ensuring your gutter system is doing its job properly. Secondly, there’s the job of making sure history doesn’t repeat itself by preventing future clogged downspouts.
While this article will give you an idea of what is involved, it is important to say that, unless you have professional level experience in this field, we recommend you call in a professional to do this work. You should only clean your gutters if you can walk up to them while standing on the ground. There is a significant risk of injury or even death if you are working on a ladder or a roof without professional level equipment and safety procedures.
Addressing Clogged Downspouts
To give you an idea of what’s involved, and why it’s easier and safer to get professional help, here’s a brief guide to what unclogging your own downspout would involve if you decided to tackle it yourself. It’s a good idea to know what you’re getting into before getting started. It can certainly be a demanding job with more than a few health and safety risks.
1. Tool Up and Plan Your Approach
First of all, you’ll need to make sure you have all the gear you need to get the job done…safely. The primary tools you’ll need include something to scoop debris from your gutters, strong work gloves, a bucket or bag to throw the debris in, a safety-rated ladder and something to properly secure it, and adequate eye protection. If you are going to get on your roof, you will also need, at minimum, to install one or more roof anchors, and know how to wear and use a safety harness, rope, and lanyard. In terms of planning your approach, start at the furthest place away from the downspout, in order to prevent it clogging again immediately after you’re done.
2. Remove Debris
Using a scoop, or your hands, remove as much of the large debris as you possibly can from the gutters. It’s always best to use a plastic scoop, to prevent damaging your gutters. Use your hands to get rid of large leaf deposits, though be sure to wear strong gloves as you never know what might be hiding in there. Note and remove any excess debris from the roof, too, which might once again block your drains the next time it rains.
3. Rinse Residual Dirt
Once all the big stuff has been removed, you may be tempted to get to work with a garden hose or a pressure washer on a gentle setting. We don’t recommend this, since you will be washing debris into your drain system, which is exactly what you don’t want to do. If you are going to flush, be sure to disconnect the downspouts at the bottom from the drain, so that you don’t clog the drain. Reconnect the downspouts when you are done. And if you use a pressure washer, be sure you don’t let the spray hit the roof! You aren’t looking to blast the living daylights out of your gutters, but rather to wash away the residual dirt and debris you couldn’t pick up.
4. Tackle the Clog
After the gutters have been addressed, it’s time to make sure the downspouts are clear. If there is a clog, there are multiple approaches that are worth trying out, beginning with the easiest and upping the ante as you go. You can try to physically ‘poke’ the clog into submission, either from the top or the bottom of the downspout. If this doesn’t work, a plumber’s auger (snake) will take care of most clogs. If all else fails, you will need to disassemble your downspout and use a more hands-on approach.
5. Repair Damage
Last but not least, take note of any cracks, splits, holes, or other damage you come across, in order to apply the necessary fixes.
Preventing Future Clogs
When it comes to avoiding future blockages, there are several options to explore. The most accessible and popular approaches are as follows:
1. Regular Maintenance
First of all, one of the best ways of keeping your gutters and downspouts clean and free-running is to give your gutters a little TLC on a more frequent basis. Over time, debris will inevitably cause problems in gutters that are neglected and ignored. The more often you address the situation, and clean the gutters, the less likely it is you’ll be left with a blockage to deal with.
2. Gutter Covers or Leaf Traps
We don’t recommend gutter covers or screens of any type except in very unusual circumstances. Read more about why: here. However, leaf traps can be extremely helpful. These are devices installed at the bottom of your downspouts before entering your drain system. They let you walk up and clear debris that has gone down the downspout and gets caught in the trap. That way you can clear it away any time you want to without the risk of being on a ladder.
3. Call in the Pros
Last but not least, it often proves simpler, easier, and more cost-effective to just have the pros come in from time to time, to help keep things running smoothly. Armed with the industry’s most effective equipment and long-term experience, we can get the job done in an efficient and effective manner, giving you that peace of mind knowing the job was done correctly.
If you’d like our help getting your gutters clean, we’ll be glad to give you a free estimate.