3 Tips for Caring for Your Gutters in the Winter
Many property owners are under the assumption that they’ll only need to worry about their gutters during the spring, summer and fall months. After all, that’s the only time it’s going to rain, right?
While that may be true as it pertains to rain, winters present new elements that gutters will need to be able to handle: snow and ice. Noting this, gutters need their fair share of maintenance both in preparing for the cold weather and throughout the season as well.
In this post, we’ll discuss three things that you should be doing to properly care for your gutters this winter. Taking some steps during the fall months before cold weather sets in can help ensure that your gutters are working well when they need to this winter season.
1. Properly Prep Them for Winter Weather
Proper care and maintenance of your gutters during the winter months starts with prepping them right before the cold weather months set in. There’s a laundry list of things that you should be doing before winter to ensure that your gutters continue to do their job for when temperatures plunge and the snow begins to fall. Here’s a look at some of what should be on your to-do list in late fall:
Clean out gutters and downspouts: Gutters are often clogged by leaves and other debris. And when they are, it can greatly impact water flow and disrupt proper drainage. It’s suggested that property owners clean out their gutters at least twice a year, and one of these cleanings should occur during the fall months. If rain and ice melt off the roof isn’t allowed to drain properly during the winter, it’s likely to freeze within the gutters, adding more weight to them and potentially causing them to pull away from the roof line or sag. Poorly draining gutters can also lead to ice dams, which we’ll cover more of in the next section.
Inspect them for leaks: This is a good thing to do periodically throughout the year, but especially before winter weather sets in. The next time it rains, grab an umbrella and walk the perimeter of your home. Look for leaks in the gutter system, especially around where gutters meet downspouts. Make sure to address these leaks accordingly to minimize the risk of foundation degradation and water intrusion.
Address your landscaping: If you have any trees or landscaping growing near your gutters, you’ll want to take out your trimmer and make sure that any branches are cut back enough to avoid contact with them. High winds in winter often cause branches and limbs to scratch up anything that they come into contact with, and it could lead to damage to your gutters.
2. Be Wary of Ice Dams
Ice dams form when snow melt runs off the roof toward the gutters only to refreeze after the water comes into contact with the gutters. This can prevent water runoff from draining properly and, if ice dams become too significant, can also lead to water seeping through the roof and into the attic or other areas of the home. This, in turn, can lead to some costly water damage restoration.
There are many ways to prevent ice dams from forming, and while some of these methods include ensuring that your attic is properly insulated, we’re going to focus on gutters specifically in this post. Like we said in the above section, you’ll want to make sure that your gutters are free of leaves and debris so that snow melt can properly drain.
Secondly, you may even want to invest in a special roof rake to use this winter. Roof rakes are long-handled, specially designed rakes that will not damage the roof. Property owners can use them following snowfall to rake a few feet of snow off the roof near where the roof line meets the gutters. This will ensure that water can drain more freely and minimize the potential for refreezing. Roof rakes can also be used to break up ice dams if they form.
3. Don’t Forget About Your Downspouts
The downspouts are the parts of the gutters that actually distribute the water runoff away from your home. Ideally, they should be discharging water several feet away from your property, and the areas where they are should be sloped away from the house (and not toward it) to avoid puddling or pooling around the foundation.
Fall is the time to check your downspouts to make sure they’re in good shape and discharging water accordingly. It’s also a good time to make any grading adjustments if the soil is sloping toward your home and not away from it. When the weather begins to get colder, the ground will also harden, making it more difficult to perform any grading.