It might be a job you've already done this year, or one coming up for the Autumn, but whatever the time of year, clearing out guttering is perhaps the least enjoyable household maintenance task a person can do.  Standing up a ladder for a long time, constantly going up and down, moving the ladder along the guttering and having your hands in all the gunk doesn't equate to fun for many people, but it's important that this job is done safely. It's tempting to rush the job to get it over with and over-reach on the ladder to avoid having to move it to often.  Not moving the ladder as often as you should leads to stretching further than is safe, which is a leading cause of ladder falls.  Additionally, the ladder should never be moved while a person is on it, for the same reason: anything which upsets the balance of the ladder leads to the ladder toppling over. Having two people on the job certainly makes things easier, as one can be up the ladder and the other responsible for moving it, footing it and ensuring there are no piles of gutter debris to trip on.  If both people are comfortable using ladders, then the roles can be switched to provide a break for both parties.

Tripod Ladders

If there is no one available to foot the ladder, you should at least make someone aware that you will be up a ladder, so that if an accident does occur there is someone on hand to get help.  It is not advisable to work up a ladder without direct supervision or at least someone nearby to check on you.  If you have to work on the ladder without someone to foot the ladder then the Faxko tripod ladder is the best bit of equipment to use.  It is a very tall step ladder, but instead of being an A-frame construction it has two independently adjustable back legs, allowing the ladder to be positioned close to walls in order to carry out tasks like clearing guttering.  The rear legs provide support, negating the need for a second person to keep the ladder steady, and because the legs are adjustable independently, the ladder can be set up on uneven ground.  At only £345 including VAT and delivery, this ladder will be your best friend around the home and is well worth the investment. If you are using a straight extension ladder it needs to be positioned at the correct angle, which must be checked every time the ladder is moved.  As a rule, for every four feet of height, the ladder base must be one foot away from the base. The ladder must be tall enough to reach the roofline for safety; generally a 6.3 metre long ladder is needed to clear the guttering of a two-storey home. The Lyte 3.8 metre double section extension ladder for DIY use has an extended length of 6.9 metres, which is perfect for the job.  It weighs just 14.5 kilos and costs £92 including VAT and delivery.  Titan also make a DIY rated double section ladder than extends to 7.1 metres and costs £104 including VAT and delivery.

Accessorise Your Ladder

A ladder stand off also helps when using a straight ladder, as it keeps the top of the ladder away from the guttering, stopping it from being damaged while providing a more stable support than plastic guttering. The stand off sets the ladder away from the wall allowing you more elbow room to work and the wider points of contact at the top greatly reduce the risk of the ladder slipping sideways. Additionally, the stand off allows the ladder to span drainpipes and other features on the exterior walls, giving you greater control over where the ladder can be used.  There is no need to over-reach to clear otherwise inaccessible areas of guttering when you use a stand off.  This ladder standoff costs just £25 and allows the ladder to be placed against corners, which is especially helpful for clearing out the most stubborn parts of the guttering. The ground surfaces outside the perimeter of your home will differ, with a mix of hard paving, gravel and earth common for most people. There may also be decking to content with, which is extremely slippery when wet.  If possible, leave the task of clearing guttering for a dry, still day with firm, dry ground conditions. If you have uneven surfaces or very soft ground there are accessories that will help to stop slipping, level out uneven surfaces and stop the ladder from sinking.

Pop It In a Ladder Bucket

The matter that accumulates in the guttering is often unpleasant and rotting, so it makes a great addition to your compost heap! Instead of throwing the material down from the ladder and increasing the risk of slips and falls, collect it all in a bucket and add it to the compost heap. If you don't have one, ask your neighbours. The ladder bucket accessory is perfect for collecting 4 litres of gutter gunk, and attaches to almost any ladder.  If you buy the Lyte ladder mentioned above you can get this bucket for just £10. Thick gloves are essential for clearing guttering.  Mixed in with the composting moss and leaf matter may be tennis balls, broken glass or other objects that have been dropped there by animals.  Protective gloves stop any injuries and mean you don't get covered in slime.  It is best to remove these gloves when climbing the ladder as they could cause you to lose grip.  Sturdy, non-slip footwear is also recommended, especially if you will need to get onto the roof. Safety goggles are also recommended for clearing guttering.  Your face will be very close to whatever is lurking up there and insects such as wasps and bees have been known to nest in these areas. Squirrels, rats and mice can also be a hazard, as can garden birds, so facial protection is a good bet if you don't want to get stung or bitten.  Be aware that animals may be hiding in mounds of leaves, as you don't want to be taken by surprise up the ladder. If in doubt, poke at the clogs before attempting to clear them, so anything hiding in there will come out. If there is a lot of debris on the roof, such as leaves or moss, rake this down into the guttering before you begin. All that material would end up there soon enough, and by clearing the roof first you won't need to attend to the guttering as often.

Use Your Ladder Less

Using a scoop can help remove large clogs of debris and with the help of an extension pole can be used to push matter along the guttering, reducing the need to move the ladder as often. When the large pieces of material have been removed, the guttering needs to be cleared out with a hose. A spray nozzle that increases the water pressure helps to jet out anything that has stuck to the gutter and washes it all down towards the drainpipes.  Make sure the drainpipes and drains are clear and free draining, especially after washing the gutters out. In order to keep drainpipes clear you can install guards that prevent large pieces of material coming down the pipe. Water flow is not obstructed unless the matter builds up a lot around the protective mesh.  If this happens, you know it's time to clear the guttering!  On the ground, remove debris regularly from drain covers and keep them flowing freely. While you are working on the guttering take regular breaks to rest and recharge, and consider spreading the job over two days to make sure you do not get overworked or tired.  Tea and biscuits might help make this task slightly less arduous and hopefully the tips and advice in this article will make your next gutter clearing safer and easier.