Maintenance tips to make gutters and downspouts last longer

The last time it rained did your gutters back up? Or water gush in sheets over the sides? Although water is the worst enemy of your home's siding and foundation, well-maintained gutters and downspouts will whisk water from the roof and deposit it where it can do no harm. Here are some helpful tips.

Maintenance tips to make gutters and downspouts last longer

[Photo Credit: iStock.com/Johnrob]

Whether it's following a long winter, the end of autumn, or early summer after all the trees' seeds and flowers have come down, an accumulation of debris in your gutters can shorten their life two main ways:

It slows the flow of water
This pool of water keeps them wet inside. If you have metal gutters, this moisture will promote rust. What's more, it may potentially cause the wood fascia to which the gutters are attached to rot.

The debris adds weight
This can cause the gutters to sag and eventually come apart. It also puts extra strain on the hidden hanger where it attaches to the wood fascia, potentially causing the screws to pull out.

  • It is very important to clear your gutters regularly, but especially after the leaves fall and before the winter begins, to help prolong their life.

To clean gutters

To clean your gutters you'll need some basic tools, including:

  • Heavy work gloves
  • A ladder
  • A garden trowel
  • Whisk broom and a bucket with a metal hanging hook
  • Your garden hose

To begin cleaning:

  • Start near one downspout, sweep debris into a pile away from the downspout outlet.
  • Scoop up the debris with the trowel and dump it into the bucket.
  • Clean as far as you can comfortably reach; then move the ladder along.
  • After you have removed the bulk of the debris by hand, you can use the garden hose to flush away any remaining dust or dirt towards the downspout. This also helps check for leaks or sags and to make sure the downspouts are clear.

*N.B.* While you're on the ladder, have someone on the ground holding it steady and keeping an eye on things. He or she can hand you tools you need if you accidentally drop them. What's more, wear good shoes as the rungs of the ladder may become wet and slippery. Above all think safety!

To clear a clogged downspout

If you find a clogged downspout, try to clear it with a strong direct blast from your garden hose nozzle.

  • Sometimes it will flush out any debris that has accumulated in the downspout itself. Other times, it may soften and dislodge debris that has clogged the top of the downspout.

If that doesn't work, downspouts are pretty easy to disassemble and clean. Simply remove the sheet-metal screws that hold the sections together and pull them apart.

Consider installing gutter guards

If you have many large trees that lose their leaves in the fall or produce lots of seeds in the springtime, consider investing in gutter guards, especially for gutters that are hard to reach for cleaning.

  • The best guards completely cover the gutters with solid metal pieces that have slots just under the downslope edge. More modern ones, with a sieve-like opening, are made from vinyl and are easily installed by snapping them into place.
  • Gutter guards act as a filter and prevent debris from falling into the gutter. As a result, gutters are less likely to sag, which will prolong their life and save you endless hours of gutter cleaning over the years.

To repair a gutter

There's usually no need to replace the entire gutter if there's a small hole in one of the steel or aluminum sections. You can easily do an excellent job of patching it yourself.

  • Start by using a wire brush to clean and scuff the inside of the gutter around the hole.
  • Cut a patch of the same metal, put it in position, and pre-drill four pilot holes for pop rivets.
  • Caulk the perimeter of the patch area and the bottom of the patch itself with silicone.
  • Secure the patch with pop rivets.

If you have vinyl gutters, you can purchase a repair kit at your local home improvement centre.

  • The patch is peel-and-stick, moulds to the gutter's surface, and can be cut to the desired size.
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