6 Tips for Gutter Maintenance to Solve Common Problems

Keep rain gutters in top shape with these quick and simple maintenance tips.

Owning a home adds a variety of tasks to your agenda—new paint, fresh decor, maybe even a remodel. But rain gutters? This important maintenance job might not be fun, but it's vitally important to the safety of your home. Clogged gutters can do more than just misdirect water. All that detritus leads to wear and tear on the gutters, and the rain runoff can pool near your foundation, causing leaks or damage. Gutters that aren't working well might pull away from the roof, resulting in further home disrepair. Below are some of the most common gutter problems you might encounter, plus how to keep your gutters in good working order. For all maintenance tasks, you will need a ladder to access gutters.

home exterior copper gutter and downspout
Edmund Barr

1. Clogged Gutters

What you'll need: Wire brush, gloves, hose

It's recommended you clean your home's gutters twice each year—once in the spring and once in the fall. This helps prevent the buildup of leaves, sticks, and other debris. To clean gutters, remove debris from gutters by hand while wearing gloves. Use a wire brush to loosen stubborn accumulations. Rinse gutters with a hose to remove remaining dirt and leaves.

2. Holes or Gaps in Gutters

What you'll need: Sheet metal, metal snips, roofing cement, large putty knife, gutter caulk

If you notice a hole in your gutters, start by cutting a piece of sheet metal to fit over the hole. On the inside of the gutter, spread roofing cement around the edges of the hole. Gently bend the sheet metal and press into roofing cement. Coat the patch with additional cement and let dry.

If your gutters have gaps, seal with gutter caulk ($8, The Home Depot) and let dry.

3. Rusty Gutter Spots

What you'll need: Wire brush, roofing cement, putty knife

Minor rust spots may appear on gutters due to outdoor elements. Luckily, they're fairly simple to repair. Using a wire brush, thoroughly scrape away the rust on gutters. With a putty knife, apply a thin coat of roofing cement.

4. Detached Gutters or Downspouts

What you'll need: Sheet-metal screws, screwdriver, U-shape brackets

Gutters that have pulled away or detached can cause water to run down your home's exterior toward the foundation, potentially leading to leaks and damage. To fix a detached gutter, drive a pilot hole, and secure the gutter or downspout with U-shape brackets and short sheet-metal screws.

5. Missing Downspouts

What you'll need: Fine-tooth hacksaw, file, metal downspout section, gutter caulk, U-shape brackets, screws, screwdriver

If a portion of your downspout is missing, it's fairly simple to fix. Start by measuring the section that needs to be replaced. Using a hacksaw, cut a new section of the downspout, being careful to cut square. File the edges and secure using U-shape brackets and screws. Seal the seam with gutter caulk.

6. Damaged Gutter Guards and Strainers

What you'll need: Wire-cage strainers, scissors, screen guards the width of your gutters

If your home's gutter guards are in disrepair or a portion is missing, follow these steps to replace them. Place a wire-cage strainer ($3, Lowe's) above the downspout connection. Cut lengths of the gutter guard to fit your gutters. Slip the inner edge of the guard under the first course of shingles and bend the other edge in place under the lip of the gutter.

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