The Comprehensive Guide to Gutter Cleaning for Homeowners

Updated October 26, 2021
Large trees surrounding classic house
Ken Hurst - stock.adobe.com

Regularly cleaning your gutters is essential for maintaining your home, but some times of year are better than others

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As a homeowner, you might find cleaning your gutters about as much fun as a root canal. But if you want to protect your roof, walls, and foundation, and keep your home’s curb appeal on point, a regular cleaning is a must. But when is the best time of year to clean your gutters? It mainly depends on the number and kind of trees you have near your roof.

Why Gutter Cleaning Is So Important

Gutter cleaning isn’t exactly an easy task. After all, it usually involves some pretty vigorous shifting and scrubbing at the top of a high ladder. It’s little wonder that many homeowners delay the project for as long as they can.

But for the sake of your home and your wallet, that’s precisely the last thing you should do. Because, as dirt and debris build up in your gutters and downspouts, they’re far more likely to fail. 

Loose and broken gutters can cause water to back up, leak, overflow, and leach into your exterior walls, your foundation, and even between your roof layers, leading to costly damage.

The Best Time of Year for Gutter Cleaning

Brick house with gutters full of leaves
trongnguyen - stock.adobe.com

How often and what time of year you should clean your gutters depends mainly on the kinds of trees you have close to your roof.

Pine Trees

Pine trees are notoriously heavy shedders, and pine needles and pine cones have a nasty habit of piling up, even if you have gutter screens or guards. So, if you have pine trees near your roof, it’s probably a good idea to clean your gutters four times a year

Seasonal cleaning will help prevent the buildup of autumn leaves and winter ice and snow. It will protect against water overflow and backup during those heavy spring showers and summer storms.

Oak Trees

When’s the best time to clean your gutters if you have oak trees? Since they’re not quite as punishing for your gutters as pine trees, you may be able to get by with a semi-annual cleaning.

If you’re cleaning your gutters twice a year, then spring and fall will be the best time to do it. Cleaning in fall will help to clear the gutters of fallen leaves and other debris that has accumulated in summer and early autumn.

A fall cleaning will also ensure your gutters are clear and ready to take on winter’s punishing conditions. After all, there’s nothing harder on your vulnerable gutter joints and seams than heavy ice and snow building up in a gutter already piled with leaves, twigs, and other debris.

Similarly, a spring cleaning is a good idea because it clears out all the gunk and goop that has collected over the winter. This gives your gutters a clear and seamless path for directing those April shows and August gully washers away from your home.

Pecan

Pecan trees look and smell heavenly, but they can be a nightmare on your gutters. Pecan trees are super-shedders. Not only do they lose an enormous amount of leaves every autumn, but it only takes a moderate thunderstorm to cause them to lose twigs and even large branches.  

And that means you have to worry about both gutter clogs and structural damage to your gutters from these pecan tree projectiles. But that’s not all because pecan trees also produce very sticky sap, leading to a heavy, gunky mess if you allow debris to collect in your gutters.

So, if you have pecan trees close to your roof, you’re probably going to need a seasonal cleaning.

Sweet Gum

Sweet gum trees are a popular ornamental tree that puts on a spectacular foliage display in the fall. So you may well find your yard populated with these beautiful but bothersome trees. 

And if they’re close to your roof, that can be a real problem because not only do sweet gum trees shed massive amounts of leaves in the fall, but they also produce seed and fruit known as “gum balls.”

These gum balls, though, aren’t the treats the name suggests. They’re hard, spiky, and super sticky. They’re also plentiful, and when they strike your gutters, they can cause significant damage. At the same time, if they accumulate in your gutters, they’re going to gum up the whole works. 

So when’s the best time to clean your gutters if you have these trees? At least twice a year, once in the fall when the leaves are falling and once in the spring, when the gum balls are flying.

Magnolia

Ah, who could possibly have a problem with the magnificent magnolia? Not us, certainly! After all, if you live in the south, the magnolia tree is as much a tradition as mint juleps, sweet barbeque, and that slow southern drawl.

But magnolia trees may not be a friend to your gutters. Magnolias are heavy shedders. And they don’t just shed leaves. They also shed petals, cones, and branches. 

Magnolia cones aren’t like pine cones, though. Instead of being brittle like pine consensus, magnolia cones are extremely hard—hard enough to shatter a window, in fact! And that’s not good when they come pelting against your gutters.

And the petals, as lovely as they are, aren’t much nicer to your gutters. Magnolia petals are actually tough, leathery, and wet. They easily congeal when they’re allowed to accumulate and clump together.

Depending on your climate, magnolias may shed seasonally or they may shed all year-round. Because of this, you should clean your gutters at least twice a year—in spring and fall if you have magnolias near your roof. But if you have a lot of magnolias, or you find your trees are shedding all year long, which is especially likely in warmer climates, then a seasonal gutter cleaning may be your best bet.

Other

Even if you don’t have any of the trees listed above near your home, it’s important to remember that all trees, including coniferous pines, shed to some degree. Plus, you have the issue of airborne debris carried by heavy winds and thunderstorms. 

And then, when you add rain and snowfall, you have the perfect recipe for gutter clogs. So, unless you have gutter guards or screens, you should opt for cleaning your gutters at least once or twice a year

With gutter guards, you may be able to stretch that to every 18 to 24 months, depending on what your gutter system manufacturer or installer recommends.

Cost to DIY Gutter Cleaning vs. Hire a Professional

The average cost of gutter replacement ranges between $1,600 and $2,200 nationally. On the other hand, the cost to have your gutters professionally cleaned typically runs from $120 to $220, though those averages can increase if you have a two- or three-story home, and downspout cleaning may add as much as $100 onto your bill. And if you plan to tip your gutter cleaners for a job well-done, you should offer between $10 and $20 per pro.

But when you’re working on your gutters, there are many projects that are best left to the professionals, especially if your roof has a particularly steep slope or you have a multi-story home. 

Similarly, even if you have one of the best gutter guard systems, such as micromesh, and you’ve managed to keep your gutters fairly clean with them, you should still consider hiring a local gutter cleaning pro. That’s because your gutter guards will need to be removed before the gutters are cleaned and replaced after, which can be a pretty precarious proposition when you’re working from a ladder.

If you don’t have gutter guards, though, and you feel pretty comfortable with heights, then you may save yourself as much as $75 per hour in labor by doing the job yourself.

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