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How to clean gutters using a ladder safely

Ste Smith 25/04/16

Clearing your gutters can be a dirty, difficult and dangerous job but essential in order to prevent water damage to the roof and walls of your house. This article suggests safer ways to use a ladder to clear your gutter and highlights the ladder safety accessories that you should consider using when cleaning your gutters. 

Before you start, make sure you have a good pair of plastic water-proof gloves to protect your hands from the sharp debris and rough surfaces.

Select the Right Ladder

The starting point, if you don't already have one, is to select the most suitable ladder for the job and that is going to be dependant on the height that you have to reach. For a single storey bungalow a set of step ladders could be used but you will need a set of extension ladders for 2 storey buildings. At Ladderstore we would not recommend that you attempt to clear out guttering on 3 storey buildings, that is a job best left to a professional. Ask your window cleaner for advice, you will probably find that clearing gutters is something that they can do for you.

How High is it to my Gutters?

As a rough guide the height to the gutter on a single storey house is about 3.3m and the height to the gutter on a two storey house is about 5.7m. That means that you need to select a ladder with a working height that matches your gutter height. In the case of a single storey house that means you could use a 10 or 12 tread step ladder or a 2 section extension ladder with an extended height of 3.95m or more. There would be no suitable step ladders for two storey house gutters, instead you should consider an extension ladder with an extended height of around 8 metres. This takes into account the angle of the ladder and variances in 2 storey house heights.

Tip: If you are not sure of your heights then measure a brick and one mortar strip and then count how many bricks there are to the guttering.

Combination Ladders

One of the most versatile ladders for clearing gutters and doing a number of household jobs is the Combination Ladder. These can operate as both a step ladder and extension ladder.

Combination ladders such as the Hailo Combi range or the Lyte Trade Combination Ladder range also have the added bonus of a heavy duty ladder leveller built in - essential stabilisation for gutter cleaning jobs.

The Zarges Skymaster ladder has a stabiliser that can be used as a stand off as well with the Skymaster when the Skymaster is used as an extension ladder.

Choose a Ladder Stand Off

In the UK house builders seem intent on fitting the plastic gutters as close to the roof tiles as possible making it hard work getting your hand into clear out the debris. Using a ladder stay or stand off has the dual benefit of giving you a better working position above the gutter without crushing it and making your ladder more stable.

How Does a Stand Off Work?

A stand off attaches to your ladder and keeps your ladder about 50cm / 20" away from the wall giving you lots of space to access the gutter and clear it. Since it contacts the wall with a wider span than your ladder, usually about 1m / 40" or so, it also increases the ladder stability and allows you to span over down pipes and other obstructions on the outside of your house. At Ladderstore we recommend the Adjustable Ladder Stand Off as it has the additional benefit of being adjustable to set the ladders from 43cm / 17" to 60cm / 24" away from the wall.

Ladder Stabilisers and Anti Slip Products

When working up a set of extension ladders it is pretty important that you are able to stand the ladders on flat, firm ground. The combination ladders described above come with a built in ladder levelling bar, but if your extension ladders don't have this what are your options?

The Best Ladder Stabilisers

We have narrowed it down to the two best ladder stabiliser and anti slip products. The first is a stalwart, the Laddermat Ladder Leveller, proving that you don't have to overcomplicate... simple solutions are always the best! The Laddermat has a lot of good reviews on our site because it is easy to use, inexpensive and both levels your extension ladder and stops the feet sliding away from the wall on smooth surfaces or sinking into soft ground. The second product is the LadderM8rix Professional an anti slip device for ladders that you can use on almost any outdoor surface including paving stones, concrete, tarmac, grass, gravel, wood and even on ice and snow. The innovative M8rix is about the best anti slip product for ladders that we have ever seen.

Using a Ladder to Clean Your Gutter Do's and Dont's

DO

  • Set your extension ladders up at the right angle - most modern ladders have a safety mark on the side that demonstrates the safest angle to place the ladders.
  • Get a Ladder Paint Tray if you don't already have one - it's good for putting paint pots and tools on.
  • Do be careful using a pressure washer as they can blow you off a ladder if you are not prepared and in control.
  • Do re-site the ladder as required while you move along the guttering and take regular, 30 minute, breaks.

DON'T

  • Don't over reach, this is one of the main reasons for people falling from ladders when clearing gutters. As a general rule try and keep your belt buckle (or belly button) in between the stiles as you work.
  • Don't use a ladder that is too short for the job. You shouldn't find yourself above the 3 rung from the top of an extension ladder ... ever. On a step ladder you should have your knees below the top of the steps, or the safety rail on platform steps.

For a really indepth guide into how to avoid overflowing gutters, take a look at London Drainage Services' 'How to avoid an overflowing gutter' guide.

If you need any further help or advice please don’t hesitate to drop us an e-mail or give our expert team a call on 01204 590 232.