My previous house was a ranch style home that was surrounded by big trees, so every fall I’d have to climb up on a ladder and spend a good portion of the day manually cleaning out the leaves and other debris from the gutters so that they wouldn’t clog. Clogged gutters allow water to collect and if that water freezes into ice your gutters could become so heavy that they can bend, break, and even fall right off the house.
At one point I had a gutter that was so clogged I could see the pile of leaves flowing over the edges. I didn’t really want to get out the ladder and climb up on my roof just to clean out that section of gutter. I’m always a little nervous climbing up and down ladders and I simply detest sticking my hand in the muck and dumping it out onto the ground.
There are a lot of different gutter cleaning gadgets out there, but most of them rely on pushing, squirting or blowing the leaves and muck out of your gutter, only to have all that stuff land on your roof, your yard or (more likely) you. I also didn’t really want to spend the money for something I’d just use once or twice a year. There had to be a better way. Since I was spending the day cleaning up my yard, I had my Troy-Bilt chipper and leaf vacuum out and I was using it to clean up some sections of the yard. While I was vacuuming the leaves out of the front flower beds I looked up at my gutter and realized I could probably vacuum out the gutters in pretty much the same way.
Assembling the Gutter Vacuum
To build yourself a gutter cleaning vacuum you’ll obviously need a few things:
- You’ll need a vacuum device. A chipper vac, a leaf vacuum or even a shop vacuum designed to pick up wet and dry material will work. Though these tools are designed to suck up leaves and debris from the ground, a slight modification will allow them to clean out your gutters as well. Make sure your vacuum device is designed to deal with wet debris. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to use any vacuum device that isn’t safe to use with wet as well as dry material. Water conducts electricity and you don’t want the job of cleaning out your wet gutters to be your last.
- You’ll also need a hose and possibly some extension tubing, depending upon how high your gutters are.
In my case I used a chipper vac, though my neighbor has done something similar with his Toro leaf vacuum. You will need to extend the solid portion of your vacuum’s hose and you’ll need some way to put a “hook” on the end so that you can clean out your gutter from the ground. I used two 4 inch aluminum duct elbows that I happened to have sitting around. They only cost a few dollars each and you can use them again and again from one year to the next. The only other thing I used to create my gutter vacuum was a little foil tape, though simple duct tape would work just as well. I used the foil tape to keep the joints together and prevent it from shifting too much when it was bumped or moved. It worked in a pinch, though I may one day try to make it a little more secure.
Assembly is pretty straight-forward. Put the duct elbows together to make a U shape. You may want to tape them together just to keep them secure. Then attach one end of the U to the end of your chipper vac hose, again running a line of tape around it to keep things fairly air tight. I used 4″ duct elbows because they fit over my chipper’s extension tube fairly well with just a little bit of play. Obviously you’ll want to work with something that will fit on your chipper vacuum’s hose. I thought about using a PVC elbow, but the aluminum duct work was readily available and probably a lot cheaper if I had to buy it.
Using it is pretty easy: start of the chipper vac, lift the hose and slowly move the “candy cane” end across your gutter, sucking out all sorts of leaves and twigs and just about most of your other junk up there. I went over the whole length of the gutter twice and since my hose is clear I could see a good bit of debris being sucked out. When I was done vacuuming my gutters I just ripped the tape off and slid the U shaped off my chipper’s extension tube. I had the entire thing back apart in about 30 seconds!
I later decided to try the same process on my back gutters which are a bit higher than my front gutters. To reach those gutters easily I had to extend the length of the gutter tube by about four more feet. Again, I relied on aluminum ducts because of the light weight and low cost. Instead of attaching the elbow joint directly to the plastic vacuum tube of the chipper I put this length of aluminum tube between the two parts. You can see it in the video I made of this DIY gutter vacuum.
My Gutter Vacuum Video Demonstration
If you don’t have a chipper vac then you can obviously use a shop vac or a leaf blower with a reverse function, though the amount of suction power you get from that might be less than you might get from a standard chipper. A lot of people have made gutter vacuums for their shop vacs and they even sell professional gutter cleaning kits for some brands of vacuum cleaners.
My do-it-yourself gutter vacuum isn’t the best-looking tool, but it cleaned my gutters and it prevented me from climbing on the roof. I haven’t seen any other gutter cleaning systems built around chipper vacuums but the concept works pretty well.