When using a ladder, safety should be your primary concern. Never work on a ladder alone.
Cleaning gutters is a very popular question at Diydoctor. We have decided to combine this project with one on ladder safety as it is a big concern to our users how someone can use a ladder safely on their own. Firstly its important to know that the optimum safety angle for a ladder is 4 to 1. This is demonstrated in the image on the left.
The bottom of a ladder, (and ideally the top also) should be secured. Usually we ask someone to stand at the bottom or "foot" of the ladder to stop the feet of the ladder sliding away from the wall. There have been many ingenious ways of supporting the bottom of the ladder when no-one is about including filled sand-bags, parking the car against the ladder feet and so on, but at Diy Doctor we wanted something that was easily done, can be used time and again and will be 100% safe.
Using a fixing called an Anchor Eye and inserting it into the wall at regular intervals can allow you to secure the bottom of your ladder in all positions around the house. This allows you to move around clearing and cleaning gutters in perfect safety. We would at this point suggest, especially if you live on your own, that if you intend to use a ladder and you are at all unsure, its a great idea to call a friend and tell them you will call them back when the work is finished. If something awful happens, you fall and are unable to ring, you will not lay there in pain for too long.
Firstly work out where you are likely to need to put the ladder. Work out how far you can reach with either arm extended, and mark the wall in the position where the ladder will go each time you move it. You should find, that to stay safe, the centres of the bolts need to be at about 1600mm. Then drill a hole (we use a 14mm Anchor Eye which needs a 14mm hole) if possible under the Damp Proof Course, angled downward slightly. If any water gets into this hole it will run out again straight away. Next tap the Anchor Eye into the hole. This can be done with the eye bolt screwed in, or as we have done, just the casing.
Insert the eye bolt. As the bolt is tightened the outer casing expands, griping the masonry. If you have any doubt as to the effectiveness of these bolts just picture the modern day climbers risking their lives on exactly this principle to hold them on a rope at 20,000 feet!
Thread a length of rope or webbing through the eye bolt and tie two loops in the ends at the required distance away from the wall. Loop the ends over the feet of the ladder and pull the ladder out to make sure the rope is tight. Wire rope can be used and can stay within the eye when removed, then just hung up in the garage when not being used.
You can see from the final image above (bottom right) that we use a paint hook to hang the bucket on while we clean gutters. This means we have always got one hand free to hold on with. We also use an elbow length pair of rubber gloves because sometimes the stuff in the gutter is not as fragrant as one would like!
Most householders tend not to think about gutters until it rains, which is usually not a great time to be cleaning them anyway! The damage caused by blocked gutters can go unnoticed until there are bigger problems with damp walls or mould. Ensuring your gutters are able to do the job they are designed to do is therefore important. A simple solution now available from Permaroof stops gutters getting blocked in the first place. Placed in the actual gutter itself, this device stops wind blown debris building up and causing blockages.
This is a very simple project but one which will keep you safe and stop you putting off the high level jobs you may have been scared to tackle until now. Its a great idea to do the same thing at the top of the ladder as well to tie off the top and sometimes screw eyes can be put into the facia board to make it even easier.
If you prefer to work off an even safer platform, multi-way scaffold ladder with a platform are inexpensive and very versatile. Just visit our scaffold and scaffold towers project.