If you’re a homeowner, chances are that leaf maintenance is in your very near future. With the beauty of autumn nearly always comes clogged gutters that when left uncleaned can make a big mess come winter. But while some people are excellent about keeping those gutter debris-free, it’s the often overlooked downspouts that can become compacted, leading to overflows in the gutters and potential leaks in the roof. So if you’ve never done it before, now is the perfect time to give those downspouts a good clean out and give yourself the peace of mind of a leak-free roof come fall.
A downspout is the most important part of your roof drainage system as it allows all the water that flows down into the gutters to move away from the foundation of the home. A properly installed gutter system will let rain and melted snow drain off the roof quickly, and the downspout will ensure that the water doesn’t land where it’s not supposed to. Without a downspout, gutters will overflow and run down into the home, causing leaks in the basement. If it’s winter and the snow and ice can’t move, the water will find itself a new home in your attic. Either of these scenarios is a major headache for a home owner, so don’t let it happen to you. Let’s clean those downspouts.
For this job, you’ll need a ladder, a scoop, a bag for debris, a cordless drill and a shovel or long handle about an inch wide. If you have a plumbing snake, that will work well too.
Always start by cleaning out the gutters first. Remove any old leaves and sticks with a scoop or by hand. Once you’ve cleaned the gutters, give them a rinse with the hose and keep an eye out for any leaks. Small issues can be caulked, but if you see a lot of leaking, you might need to call a professional in for a repair.
Next, make your way to the elbow of the gutter system where the main gutter meets the downspout. Back out the screws in the upper and lower parts of the elbow to remove the joining piece. Look to see if there is any debris caught and remove it with a strong water stream, the end of a shovel, or your plumbing snake. Then look down the barrel of the downspout to see if you can see light at the other end. Use the hose to clear any debris and check for back-ups. If dirt, leaves, and sticks have been compacted, use the end of the shovel to gently push the gunk out of the bottom of the downspout. Be careful and make sure you don’t damage or dent the pipe. I like to use the hose both on the top and bottom of the downspout to ensure it’s absolutely free and clear.
Once everything is cleaned out, you can screw the downspout back into place and do one final flush with the hose. Just remember, any home improvement projects involving a ladder can be dangerous, so make sure you’re on firm, steady ground and ask a friend for some help. If you’re not comfortable with heights, call a professional to do the cleaning for you. No DIY project is worth a trip to the emergency room.
Bob O’Donnell is the owner of O’Donnell Bros. Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Ask the Pro.” All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O’Donnell Bros. Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit http://www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only. Get in touch here.