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Unclogging Gutters and Clogged Downspouts

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 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, and stand 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.

Regardless, we recommend reviewing this article and giving us a call at (503) 407-3346 with any questions you might have. But to be clear, we don’t provide advice over the phone for do it yourself projects, including gutter cleaning.

Addressing Clogged Downspouts

If you’ve decided to tackle a clogged downspout yourself, it’s a good idea to know what you’re getting into before getting started. It’s not rocket science, but it can certainly be a demanding job with more than a few health and safety risks.

Here’s a brief 101 guide to unclogging a downspout in five simple steps:

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 someone to hold it steady, a garden hose, 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 want 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. First of all, you could try directing the hose pipe or pressure washer directly into the pipe. Remember to disconnect the bottom of the downspout before you do this and reconnect it when you are done. The force of the water alone may clear loose clogs. Drain rods can also be used to physically ‘poke’ the clog into submission, either from the top or the bottom of the pipe. 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. In most instances, high-quality sealer is more than sufficient for a quick patch-up. It will not be a long-term solution, however.

Preventing Future Clogs

When it comes to avoiding future blockages, there are again multiple options to explore. Which represents the right choice for you will come down to numerous factors, including where you live, the types of gutters you have installed, your budget and so on.

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, leaf litter and debris will inevitably cause problems in gutters that are neglected and ignored. The more often you assess the situation, the less likely it is you’ll be left with a blockage to deal with. We recommend checking at least twice a year, but once every couple of months is more effective.

2) Gutter Screens or Leaf Traps

We don’t recommend gutter screens of any type except in very unusual circumstances. However, leaf traps can be extremely helpful. These are a devices installed at the bottom of your downspouts that let you walk up and clear debris that has gone down the downspout and gets caught in the trap. You can walk up and clear it away any time 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.

For more information on how we can help you, click here or give us a call at (503) 407-3346 and ask about getting a free quote.