Gutter Repair

Gutters are often taken for granted–until it rains! This Fix-It Guide on gutter repair tells how a gutter works, what often goes wrong, how to identify a gutter problem, and what parts and tools you will need to fix a gutter. It then gives instructions for how to clean a gutter, how to clean a downspout, how to install a gutter leaf guard, how to install a gutter screen, how to install a gutter drip edge, how to replace a damaged downspout, how to patch a gutter, and how to install gutter hangers.

How Does a Gutter Work?

A gutter is a shallow channel or conduit installed along the eaves of a house to catch and carry off rainwater. A downspout is the pipe that carries rainwater from the roof gutters to the ground or the storm sewer system. To work properly, water needs a clear and smooth path into the gutters and down through the downspouts. Gutters should be leak-proof and free of debris. Most gutter and downspout systems today are made of galvanized steel, aluminum, vinyl, fiberglass, or wood.

What Can Go Wrong with a Gutter?

The most common problem with gutters and downspouts is clogs. In addition, gutters can sag, and gutters and downspouts can leak.

How Can I Identify a Gutter Problem?

  • If water sits in the gutter, drains slowly, or overflows, clean the gutters and downspouts (see below), then install screens (see below).
  • If water runs behind the gutter and down the fascia or siding, install a drip edge (see below).
  • If water pools below the downspout, reposition or install a splash block and replace a damaged section of downspout (see below).
  • If a metal gutter leaks, you can patch it (see below).
  • If a downspout leaks, you can replace a section (see below).
  • If a gutter sags, you can install gutter hangers (see below).
  • If a section of gutter is damaged beyond repair or ice builds up along a cleaned gutter, call for professional evaluation.

Fix-It Tip

When shopping for a replacement part, bring along a piece of your system to be sure you get a part that fits exactly.

What Do I Need for Gutter Repair?

Replacement parts for a gutter system are usually found in hardware stores and home centers. The tools you will need to fix gutter systems include these:

  • Screwdrivers
  • Ladder
  • Drill
  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • 2×4 lumber
  • Small broom (whisk broom)
  • Putty knife
  • Garden hose with power nozzle
  • Gutter cleaning wand
  • Leaf guards
  • Scissors
  • Drip edge
  • Metal snips
  • Flat file
  • Hammer
  • Sheet metal screws
  • Coarse sandpaper
  • Clean rags
  • Fiberglass mesh
  • Roofing cement
  • Spikes and ferrules
  • Strap hangers
  • Level
  • Auger
  • Hacksaw
  • Roofing (or building) paper
  • Roofing nails


Some gutters are strong enough that you can lean a ladder against them. But many are easily damaged. To be safe, use a ladder stabilizer or place a 2×4 inside the gutter to keep it stable.

What Are the Steps to Gutter Repair?

Fix-It Tip

Wear good-quality rubber gloves to remove debris from gutters, making sure that sharp edges don’t puncture the gloves. Also, wear eye protection that will keep flying debris (from water pressure) from hitting your eyes.

Clean a gutter:

 Gutter Repair

You can purchase a gutter cleaning wand that extends to 4+ feet at larger hardware stores and home centers.

  1. Remove debris at the edge of the roof, in leaf guards, in open gutters, and in leaf strainers, beginning at the location farthest from the downspout.
  2. Use a garden hose with a power nozzle to wash dirt and grit off the gutter, brushing debris toward the downspout with a whisk broom. If needed, use a small putty knife to dislodge material that adheres to the gutter.

Clean a downspout:

  1. Wearing rubber gloves, reach down the drop outlet and pull out as much debris as possible.
  2. Aim a hose into the drop outlet and flush debris through the elbow and out the bottom of the downspout.
  3. As needed, use an auger to clear the downspout of debris.

Install a gutter leaf guard:

 Gutter Repair

The gutter wand head sprays water directly into the gutter to wash away debris.

  1. Wearing rubber gloves, insert a leaf guard at the top of each downspout.
  2. As needed, bend or trim the leaf guard to snugly fit the opening.

Install a gutter screen:

  1. Lay the gutter screen along the roof edge near where it will be installed.
  2. Fasten pieces together to make a continuous gutter screen along the length of the gutter.
  3. Cut excess from the end of the gutter screen to fit the gutter.
  4. Place the screen in the gutter, clipping or fastening it in place as needed for a secure fit.

Install a gutter drip edge:

  1. Cut the drip edge to the length of the gutter with metal snips.
  2. Remove burrs from any cut metal edges and smooth rough spots on any cut vinyl edges with a flat file.
  3. Install one side of the drip edge between the roofing material and the roofing paper along the roof edge.
  4. Push the drip edge under the roofing until it overhangs it by at least 1 inch.
  5. Attach the drip edge to the roof with roofing nails.

Replace damaged downspout:

 Gutter Repair

The downspout takes water from the gutter. Inspect the gutter and downspout for telltale indicators of overflowing water or damaged downspouts.

  1. Cut a replacement section to length using a hacksaw and remove any burrs from the cut edges with a flat file.
  2. Fit the replacement section into the downspout assembly.
  3. Drill a hole through the overlap of the ends and drive in a sheet metal screw.
  4. Install additional support brackets as needed.

Patch a gutter:

  1. Clean the gutter (see above), especially in the area that will be patched.
  2. Use coarse sandpaper to remove rust or debris and smooth the surface, wiping it with a dry rag.
  3. Cut a piece of fiberglass mesh larger than the hole, then use roofing cement to attach the patch to the inside of the gutter.
  4. Spread additional roofing cement over the patch to securely fasten it to the gutter.

Install gutter hangers (straps):

  1. Remove damaged hangers as needed.
  2. Use a level to verify that the gutter slopes evenly.
  3. Install strap hangers following the manufacturer’s instructions. In most cases that means installing the lips onto the gutter edges, positioning the strap on or under the edge of the roofing material, adjusting it until the gutter is in position, and driving roofing nails into it.
  4. Apply roofing cement over each nail head to keep out rain water.

Install gutter hangers (spike and ferrule):

  1. Remove damaged spikes and ferrules (washers) using the claw of a hammer.
  2. Use a level to see that the gutter slopes evenly.
  3. Drill a hole in the gutter lip for the new spike.
  4. For both new and replaced spikes, fit the ferrule inside the gutter and insert the spike through the gutter hole and through the ferrule. Then drive the spike into the fascia and rafter.

Install gutter hangers (brackets):

  1. Remove damaged spikes and ferrules (washers) using the claw of a hammer.
  2. Use a level to see that the gutter slopes evenly.
  3. Nail a bracket into the fascia board and clip it into the gutter edge.