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A Safe Way to Clean Gutters

A leaf blower modified with off-the-shelf parts makes quick work of a tedious rite of autumn

Photo by: Charles Miller

Every fall, I face the same dilemma: cleaning a forest’s worth of leaves from our rain gutters. Some of the gutters are two stories off the ground, in precarious spots that aren’t easy to reach from above or below. Watching a neighbor chase the leaves off his deck with a leaf blower gave me the idea shown in the drawing. Why not turn the power of the leaf blower heavenward, where it’s harder to reach?

A trip to the local Home Depot netted the necessary parts to modify the nozzle of my leaf blower. I picked a 10-ft. section of 1-1/2 in. plastic tubing for the primary portion of the nozzle. It’s the kind used to make the ductwork for a central-vacuum system. I chose it because it’s light and tough, and had the necessary 90° L-fittings to make the U-shaped tip at the end of the nozzle. The tubing engages the leaf blower by way of a 3x2 PVC coupling and a bushing to mate the odd pipe diameters. All this is grafted to the leaf blower with the universal bonding agent: duct tape.

When I first hooked up the rig to test it, I simply pressed the 90° Ls to the end of the nozzle without glue or tape. The force of the air blast launched the fittings onto the roof, requiring a trip up the ladder to retrieve them. Next, I taped the Ls in place, directing the one at the end at about a 45° angle. I reasoned that this would funnel air sideways toward the leaves in the gutter. This reasoning turned out to be faulty as the sideways air blasts rotated the 10-ft. nozzle toward the ground like a giant sweep-second hand on a clock. So I adjusted the two 90° Ls to direct the air blast simply straight down. This choice not only solved the rotational problem but also actually helped to hold the leaf blower aloft because the escaping air acted like a little jet engine.

Does it work? I had to put on a hat and goggles to keep from being pelted by the stuff coming out of our gutters. In 15 minutes, I cleaned every gutter on the house, including the second-story gutters. I reached them by standing on the fourth rung of my stepladder -- which appeals to me more than the top rung of my extension ladder.

 

From Fine Homebuilding125 , pp. 32 August 1, 1999