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Cleaning your eavestrough: A DIY guide to save money

Regularly cleaning and maintaining your home’s eavestrough is vital to ensure your property’s longevity. If you don’t suffer from a fear of heights, it’s a simple job that you can undertake on your own.  Let’s take a look at how to do this, and why it’s essential.

What is an eavestrough and a downspout?

See that trough running around the roof of your house? That’s your eavestrough or gutter.  It’s a critical element in your house, as it collects water and diverts it away from your home.  It’s essential for preventing significant damage.  Without one, water, or melting snow, can pool around your home’s foundation and cause flooding (which, without flood insurance, the damage isn’t covered).

When it rains or snow melts, water travels along the eaves to an attached downspout. This spout should extend at least 2 metres (6 feet) away from your (and your neighbour’s) home and deposit the water onto the ground, not into it. 

NOTE: In most municipalities, it’s mandatory to disconnect downspouts from the city sewer system.  Consult with your city hall’s website to find out if this is a requirement.

On top of the eaves and downspout system, your home may have a French drain (or weeping tile). This is a drainage pipe with holes in it that is buried in a soil-and-gravel filled trench at the foot of your home’s foundation. It helps gather water encroaching on your home and divert it into a sump pit or further away from your home into a deep pit.

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Eavestrough cleaning tools

  • A pair of gloves: Old, dirty work gloves.  This job is going to get messy. Keep your hands clean and protect them from anything sharp that may have gotten inside.
  • A ladder: Unless you have access from inside your house, you’ll need a way to access your rooftop. Get a sturdy extendable ladder for the job.  Some features to look for are stabilizers at its feet, the proper latches to ensure it’s secure when extended, and that it can support more than your weight. Consider purchasing a stand-off stabilizer as well, so that you don’t lean the ladder against your eaves while cleaning it.
  • A bucket: All the gunk you pull out has to go somewhere. Have a bucket with you to put the debris in when you remove it. You can also drop whatever you gather to the ground, but be ready to clean it up when you descend from the roof. Throw a tarp down to make the clean up easier.
  • A small shovel: You might encounter some tenacious debris when cleaning your eaves. A small shovel allows you to scrape out whatever you can’t remove with your hands. A child’s plastic sand shovel should do the trick.

How to clean your eavestrough and downspout

The process of cleaning your eaves is pretty simple.  Make sure your ladder is secure against the side of your home, climb up, reach into the trough, and remove all the debris inside. Leaves, twigs, mud and gunk – all of it should be pulled out. Put all the waste in the bucket, and dispose of it in the garbage.

NOTE: The muck from your eaves might not be able to be composted.  Check with your municipality. If you have yard waste bags, use them.

After you’ve removed any gunk from your eaves, run water from a garden hose through the whole system to get rid of any remaining bits. This process also allows you to check for any leaks in the trough. If you find any leaks, a silicon bead sealant (available in small squeeze tubes) can fix the problem. Be sure to remove any old caulking before applying anew.

While you’re up on your roof, take time to inspect your eaves for any potential problem areas.  The rivets and gutter spikes attaching the eaves to your house may be loose and are usually simple to reattach. Often, you can re-use existing holes to fix the eaves in place. If you don’t have them, consider adding leaf-blockers to the top of your eaves or at the connections to downspouts to prevent debris from clogging.

TIP: Seeing as you’re up on your roof already, take the opportunity to trim back any branches from neighbouring trees brushing against your home. It may mean fewer leaves get into your gutters in the future. It also keeps trees healthy and may prevent a falling tree crashing through your window.

What not to do when eavestrough cleaning

When cleaning your eavestrough, don’t use any toxic materials to get the gunk out.  If you pour things like Draino or bleach into your eaves, it will enter the ground, potentially causing hazardous and irreparable damage.  If you encounter a tenacious blockage in your downspout, try using a mechanical snake to loosen the debris. You can rent one from your home building centre.

How much does eavestrough cleaning cost?

If the idea of climbing to your roof to clean the eaves is terrifying, you can always hire a company to perform the service for you. The cost to have your eaves cleaned depends on your property’s size and the complexity of your roof, but can range from about $75 for a small single-storey home to $200 or more for a two- or three-storey home.  Most eaves cleaning companies offer free estimates, so it’s worth taking the time to reach out and speak with someone.

The bottom line

Eavestrough cleaning is a necessary but straightforward process. Take the time to make sure your gutters are free from clogs once a year. Doing this helps prevent flooding in your home. This problem can lead to expensive repairs and time-consuming home insurance claims.