Most gutters are not a thing of beauty, but they are a necessity. These horizontal pieces of plastic or metal control the flow of rainwater, which protects your roof, the walls and even the foundations of your home.
If your gutter is clogged up with fallen leaves, bits of stick, moss and other debris and left untended, it almost certainly will cause water damage to your home. Either rain will overflow from the gutter and pour down an outside wall, making it damp; or it will collect up top and cause your roof to leak; or it will fall onto the ground and sink into the earth, giving you a problem with rising damp and possibly damaging the foundations.
Experts recommended cleaning your gutter at least twice a year – in the spring and autumn – and more if you live near trees that shed leaves or needles or if there has been a big storm. The most likely culprit for a blockage is where the gutter joins the downpipe.
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Cleaning the gutter
This is quite a simple job but it's messy, and you need to be safe on a ladder.
An extendable ladder is useful but if you're going up more than two storeys, or you're scared of heights or feeling a bit wobbly, call an expert (see below).
Get someone to hold the ladder and put it up against the wall but not against the gutter, because that can cause it to collapse. Standoff stabilisers fitted to the top of the ladder will keep it away from the gutter (toolstation.com has one for £29.98).
Wearing a pair of waterproof gloves to protect your hands, and shoes with non-slip soles and a back to them, put a bucket or sturdy plastic bag in one hand and climb up the ladder.
Then get dipping. There can be all kinds of muck in there – gravel, mud, even insects and dead birds. Scoop it up and pop it into the bucket. Before it gets too heavy, descend the ladder and empty it.
Keep moving the ladder so you don't have to stretch along the gutter, as that increases the risk of falling.
It is possible to use a leaf blower to clean your gutter but than can push the muck into the downpipes, where it will jam them up.
A power washer is a better bet, and its powerful jet of water should remove most of the debris. First tackle the gutter, then spray it down the downpipe to remove any blockages. Finally, wash the walls of your house.
Three of the best leaf guards
Leaf guards will help but you will still need to clear your gutters regularly. There are lots of different kinds out there – some cheap, some expensive – but they still need regular maintenance.
Gutter netting (or gutter guard) is easily cut to size and installed. In 2m lengths, from Sinclair & Rush (Sinclair-rush.co.uk) it costs from £4.95 per unit.
Gutterbrush filters the rain and keeps your pipes free from debris, £15.36 for 4m, Gutter Supplies (guttersupplies.co.uk).
A gutter leaf downpipe filter is cheap and simply pushes into place. However, if it gets blocked it will cause more problems than if you didn't have it, so check often. Floplast gutter balloon outlet guard, £1.94, B&Q (diy.com).
Getting in the experts
If your gutters haven't been cleaned for ages, if you're not good with heights or don't have a ladder, or if you live in a tall property, getting in the experts is the best solution.
In a survey earlier this year, Quotation Check (quotationcheck.com) found that specialist gutter cleaning firms were far cheaper than roofers and gutterers. Prices varied dramatically around the country, with a small business in London charging £150 compared to £200 by a large business. In the south, south west and Midlands it was £125/£150, and in the north, £95/£125.
They suggest getting at least three quotes. Small firms that don't pay VAT should be cheaper.
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