Introduction: Homemade Gutter Cleaner

One of the periodic chores I really do not relish doing is to clear gutters of leaves and sticks in the fall. Blowing the leaves out on top of the roof made a big mess and cost me more time that I felt was needed. There had to be a better way. And I found it.

This year, I decided to stop risking life and limb on the roof and to use a shop vac and a gutter clearing device to attach to the extension for the shop vac. Trouble was, when I made my trek to the hardware store, I found the shop vac, but the gutter cleaner was an online order. What to do? Improvise of course.

So, I visited the plumbing aisle and picked up the following components:

Step 1: Step 1: Materials

For my 16 gallon shop vac, I found the following components in the plumbing aisle:
  1. A length of two inch ABS pipe.
  2. Two inch sink trap to form the 180 degree bend for the gutter.
  3. A 2 1/2 inch to 1 1/2 inch rubber reducer
  4. Extra extension for the shop vac to provide the necessary extension length to reach the roof from ground level
The 2 1/2 inch reducer has a pipe clamp that easily attaches to the extension.

Step 2: Step 2: Assembly

First off, do NOT glue any of the components. The reason why will become evident once you start doing the cleaning of the gutters. Leaves and sticks WILL stick inside the gutter cleaner. The ability to disassemble the unit is a positive feature.

Attach the rubber reducer to the end of the shop vacuum extension tube. In my case, I had two of these tubes that came with the shop vac and then an extra one I bought to give me the needed length. Your situation may differ, so be sure to get the length you need to reach the roof. Tighten the hose clamp with a screwdriver or wrench as needed. It has to be snug enough not to come off, but don't tighten it too much or you can crack the plastic tube.

The 2 inch pipe that is the business end of the gutter cleaner will need to be cut to at least the depth of the gutter so you can reach the bottom of the gutter. I used a chop saw to cut my pipe to length and friction fit it into the sink trap on the other side. Next, connect the other end of the sink trap to the rubber reducer. It will fit perfectly on the reducer and the friction fit is ideal. It will hold together for cleaning purposes but is easily broken apart for clogs which *will* happen.

Once the assembly is complete, you are ready to go.

Step 3: Step 3: Cleaning the Gutter

For my situation, I have large numbers of trees, so I have tons of leaves to clear in parts of my house. I had to come up with a technique that worked for gutters that were completely full.

  1. Get under the gutter and raise the gutter cleaner up with the shop vac running.
  2. Slowly introduce the assembly into the gutter and lightly clear the top level of debris.
  3. Work slowly back and forth.
  4. There *will* be clogs. Bring the cleaner down and pull the cleaner off the rubber reducer. The clog clears easily most of the time.
  5. Reattach the cleaner and start again.
  6. If the unit falls off up on the roof ( Yes, it happened to me ), get a ladder to get it back. I may add a small strap to keep the unit attached for future cleanings.
  7. Slow and steady wins the race. Remember to go back and forth in sections until you feel no more debris going through. The sound will also tell you what is being pulled through and if you are getting no more debris from a section.
  8. I normally spend an entire afternoon cleaning the entire gutter system. With this new setup, I ended up finishing in just under two hours.
The comment was made that the clogs are an issue. I didn't feel it was that big of a deal and it was a simple matter to clear them in seconds and to keep going on.

The result was a spotless clean gutter around the entire house and I didn't have to clean up a bigger mess on the ground once the gutter was clean. One bonus with the unit I made was that I could also insert the rubber end of the reducer into the drainpipes and also pull more leaves down from inside the downspouts.

Future additions

I'll be adding a new two inch to 1 1/2 inch end to fit the business end of the gutter cleaner into tight spaces. Additionally, a rubber strap to keep everything together in case a pipe becomes unplugged or loose. And to add a high-tech solution, a simple video camera like a GoPro or similar  to allow a view of the gutter from the ground would be a big plus.

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