Tom Lohr is an avid home improvement enthusiast. He prefers to spend the money he saves on new tools and gardening supplies.
Your home's gutter system plays an important part in keeping your home safe and sound. It diverts rainwater away from your foundation, thereby keeping water from seeping into your basement or over your slab. Luckily, you can clear a blocked downspout yourself.
Life in the Gutter
How gutters work is pretty simple: rains flow off of the roof and into the gutters, the water flows toward the opening at the end of the gutter and enters the downspout. From there, the water either flows into an underground piping system that leads to the city drainage system, or into your yard further away from the house. The damage wayward rainwater can cause can be severe. It can erode your home's foundation, cause water damage on the inside, and make a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.
While a gutter system is good at collecting rainwater runoff, it is also good at collecting other things like leaves. Most homeowners clean out their gutters once a year, normally after the trees have shed their leaves. Even after diligent maintenance, debris can find its way into the gutters. Often, it just gets washed down with the water. But if enough of it collects into the system, it can cause a clog that will render your gutters useless.
Having someone come out to tend to your gutters can be pricey. Expect to pay at least $100 to have someone clear a clog in your system. Provided you are able and unafraid to use a longer ladder, clearing a stoppage in your gutter system is an easy and quick DIY task.
- Garden Hose
- Sheet Metal Screws
- Screwdriver/Nut Driver
1. Find the Clog
Your first indication that you have a clog will be rainwater spilling out of your gutter since it has no where else to go. Leaves are the main culprit of clogs. If enough of them pile up and find their way into the downspout, any curve or bend in the system is the perfect place for a bunch of wet leaves to create a stoppage. There are several gutters and downspouts on your home. Identify the gutter that is overflowing and follow it visually to the end and note the downspout it uses.
2. Place the Ladder
How long of a ladder you need depends on the height of the gutter. A nice long telescoping ladder stores easily and is perfect for this task. Ensure you know how to safely use a ladder before attempting. Once you are certain of the proper and safe procedure for ladder usage, place it alongside the downspout, leaving a least a foot distance between the ladder and downspout to give you room to work
3. Disconnect the Downspout From the House
Your downspout is likely connected to your home by some pieces of downspout material cut into a semi-circle, or a rectangular bracket. That piece is screwed onto your home and the downspout screws onto that. Remove the screws holding the downspout starting from the bottom up. There may be more than one piece before you reach the clog. The sections are held together by screws. Once the screws are removed, you can pull the sections apart.
4. Check Each Removed Section
Beginning with the first section removed, peer into each one. You should be able to see daylight. If not, you might be able to clear it with your arm or a long stick. Normally, the straight pieces are not the issue, but check them anyway. The problems occur in the bends and curves.
5. Expose the Bends
After the straight sections have been removed, you will be able to look into the curved section of downspout. A flashlight might be helpful to see all the way in. If you have a clog, this is where it will be.
6. Remove the Clog
Typically, you will be able to see the clog clearly. Remove the debris with your hands and toss it down to the ground. You can clean it up latter. After the debris is removed, check for daylight. If you do not see any, there is still more debris. If you cannot reach it with your hands, use a hose with a nozzle that can make a steady and powerful stream (not a power washer). Direct the stream into the downspout and it will flush the debris out. You will get wet and dirty doing this so dress appropriately.
7. Reassemble the Downspout
Reassembling the downspout is the reverse of dismantling it. Start at the top. Before you stick the small end of the downspout into the larger end, ensure that the holes for the screws are lined up. If you can't do this, use some self-tapping sheet metal screws.
8. Test the Downspout
No test is better than a good downpour, but that is the wrong time to find out that you didn't clear all of the clog. Using your hose, squirt water onto the roof just above the gutter. Keep it up for 15-20 minutes. If the gutter hasn't overflown by then, your downspout is clear.
9. Sing a Song (Optional)
Singing the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” might make this project much easier.
10. Check During the Next Hard Rain
Double check your work by observing the gutter during the next downpour. Also, check the rest of your gutters, others may be clogged. Check a few times each years during a hard rain.
Don't Be Reluctant to Get Help or Hire It Out
Ladders are one of the leading causes of home accidents and injury. I cannot stress enough that if you are not comfortable on a ladder, have someone do it. Also, having a helper to hold the ladder and grab the upper pieces of downspout as you remove them is a good idea.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 12, 2021:
At our ages, we have to rely upon others to do that type of job. Thanks for this information about how to clear a clog in a home gutter system. It is bound to help others know the process.
Rawan Osama from Egypt on June 12, 2021:
Thank you for sharing it