Professional or DIY: Cost to Clean Gutters

Functioning gutters are essential to a healthy home. So who should clean yours? Here are the pros and cons of DIY vs. pro cleaning.

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Gutters capture rainwater and direct it away from your home’s foundation. Clogged gutters or downspouts allow water to seep into vulnerable places in your home’s exterior or saturate the soil around the foundation, resulting in anything from a leaky roof to a wet basement.

To function properly, gutters need to be free of debris. Someone’s got to do it. Here, we’ll help you decide if you should clean out the gunk or pay someone else to do it.

How Much to Clean Gutters

Hiring a Pro

Every gutter cleaning professional estimates jobs their own way. As a rule of thumb, plan on paying $1.00 to $1.50 per linear foot of gutter on the first floor, and $1.50 to $2.50 for each linear foot of gutter on the second floor. If you have third floor gutters, figure on $3 or more per linear foot.

By those guidelines, the cost to clean the gutters on a 2,500 sq. ft. two-story house with a rectangular footprint of 20 ft. by 62.5 ft. and a gable roof would be around $250. Of course, if the footprint or gutter layout is different, that number would be adjusted accordingly. For a two-story house with a hip roof and gutters on all sides, the price will be closer to $330.

Other factors that can affect the price include clogged downspouts that need to be disassembled, obstacles that make ladder placement difficult and damaged gutters that need to be re-attached. (Not all gutter cleaners perform repairs, so be sure to ask before scheduling service.)

If you do hire a pro, it’s always a good idea to check their references and clarify expectations. Will they clean up any gutter debris? Do they carry insurance? Your neighbors are a great place to turn for referrals. If you see a gutter cleaner at work in your area, ask them for a quick estimate when they’re done. Some contractors even offer discounts if multiple homes on the block hire them at the same time.

DIY Gutter Cleaning

Couple Cleaning Away LeavesRoy Morsch/getty images

The good news is that gutter cleaning is one of the most affordable DIY projects. It requires only a few basic tools, many of which you may already own. Here’s a list of tools to get you started:

  • A ladder. A step ladder will do for single-story homes; most two-story homes will require an extension ladder of at least 24 ft.
  • Gloves. Look for protection against water and cuts, especially if you have aluminum gutters.
  • A screwdriver, to disassemble downspouts and to pry out hard-to-reach debris.
  • A trash receptacle. If the gutters are holding water, use a plastic trash can.

As you can see, for most DIYers the real cost of gutter cleaning is the time involved.

Gutter Cleaning Time Considerations

How much time you’ll spend cleaning gutters depends on three factors: the linear feet of gutters and downspouts, ease of access and frequency of blockage.

For example, the gutters on a 900 sq. ft. ranch house might be an hour or less to clean, while those on a large two-story home might require a half day. But if that ranch house is surrounded by shade trees that constantly drop debris, it may require cleaning every week or two and actually be a bigger time commitment overall.

Gutter Cleaning Safety and Accessibility

Senior Man Stands On Ladder And Cleans A Roof Gutterfotografixx/getty images

Gutter cleaning safety centers on patience and a stable ladder base. For most homes, cleaning out the gutters consists of climbing up and down the ladder, repositioning and repeating. At some point you’ll be tempted to save time by leaning just a little further to the side of the ladder. It may seem faster, but it’s not worth risking a trip to the emergency room.

A secondary safety concern is the potential for cuts. Gutters can hide sharp flanges and screws, so use gloves with cut protection. If you do cut yourself, treat it immediately — gutter gunk isn’t sanitary!

Some homes lend themselves to gutter cleaning because of easy access. The ground around them is level and sturdy, and there are few if any obstacles to navigate while moving ladders around. Other homeowners aren’t so lucky, and the process of simply setting up a ladder can involve avoiding flower beds and pushing past low-hanging tree limbs.

Depending on your temperament, you may want to hire someone to deal with those headaches for you. Or you may not trust a stranger to avoid damage to your carefully cultivated gardens.

For some DIYers, the solution is to avoid ladders entirely. Attachments for garden hoses and leaf blowers allow you to blow debris out of the gutter while staying safely on the ground.

The Verdict: Pay a Pro or DIY?

When all is said and done, the choice between DIY and hiring a pro boils down to these factors.

Go Pro if:

  • You’re not comfortable using ladders;
  • The gutters are difficult to access;
  • You don’t have time to do it;
  • The cost is within your budget.

Go DIY if:

  • The gutters are easy to access;
  • You enjoy the work;
  • You’d like to save a little money.

Like most decisions, there isn’t a clear-cut winner and loser. The decision you make is ultimately up to you. Consider your lifestyle, your health, your budget and a number of other factors before settling on your decision.

Dan Stout
Ohio-based freelance writer and author Dan Stout is a former residential remodeler, commercial site supervisor and maintenance manager. He’s worked on nearly all aspects of building and DIY including project planning and permitting, plumbing, basic electric, drywall, carpentry, tiling, painting and more. He also publishes noir fantasy thrillers, including The Carter Series, from Penguin imprint DAW Books.