How To Clean Gutters & Downspouts

How To Clean Leaves From A Gutter Or Downspout


As fall approaches, many homeowners may be thinking about gutter cleaning as a part of their regular home-maintenance routine. At this time it’s also important to address any clogged downspouts that could be preventing the gutter system from properly draining. Rain water that can’t properly drain can cause water damage to a home’s foundation, and may cause the formation of an ice dam in the winter.

Some homes have downspouts that end at a location above ground, others have downspouts that feed into an underground PVC pipe. Downspout systems can become clogged in any location, above or below ground.

Clearing Above-Ground Clogs

Materials:

  • Garden hose
  • Hose nozzle
  • Plumber’s snake

Process:

  1. Remove the bottom end of the downspout from the underground PVC pipe or downspout extension.
  2. Turn the garden nozzle to the highest pressure setting.
  3. Stick the garden hose into the bottom end of the downspout and turn on a forceful stream of water.
  4. Clear away any leaves and sticks that may fall out of the bottom of the downspout. If the clog persists, proceed to step 4.
  5. Send a plumber’s snake into the bottom of the downspout to loosen debris in the downspout. Proceed with caution if using an electric plumber’s snake, as the spiral tip can tear into the downspout when misdirected.
  6. Place the garden hose into the bottom end of the downspout for the second time and turn on a forceful stream of water. If this does not fully clear the clog, repeat the process of inserting the hose and auger into the downspout until the clog has been cleared.

Clearing Below-Ground Clogs

Materials:

  • Garden hose
  • Hose nozzle
  • Manual-crank drain auger

Process:

  1. Remove the bottom end of the downspout from the underground PVC pipe or downspout extension.
  2. Turn the garden nozzle to the highest pressure setting.
  3. Stick the garden hose into the underground PVC pipe and turn on a forceful stream of water. If this doesn’t clear the clog, proceed to the next step.
  4. Insert the manual-crank drain auger into the PVC pipe. Crank the auger until it reaches the clog. Do not use an electric auger for this step, as it may damage the PVC pipe.
  5. Push the auger through the clog and dislodge the debris.
  6. Stick the garden hose into the underground PVC pipe, and turn on a forceful stream of water to flush the debris from the pipe.
  7. Repeat steps 3 through 6 until the clog has cleared.

If you are unable to clear the clog with the manual hand auger and a stream of water, you may need to replace the section of the pipe that has become clogged. To locate the clog, insert the manual auger cable into the pipe. When the auger reaches the clog, measure the distance from the opening of the pipe to the tip of the cable; this will tell you where the clog in the pipe can be found.

Dig up the pipe in the appropriate location. Use a hacksaw to remove the section of pipe with the clog. Insert a clean section of pipe and use either cement or coupling to join the two sections of pipe.

Helpful Products

There are some inexpensive inventions on the market that are designed to keep downspouts cleaner and prevent or fix clogs. These inventions include:

  • Filters that prevent leaves from falling down into the downspout.
  • Attachments designed to hook up leaf blowers to downspouts. These attachments allow you to blow the leaves out of your downspout.

Additional Resources

Finally, here’s a YouTube video that gives a thorough description of clearing the clog from a downspout:

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