Winter Gutter Prep

Sometimes, the most important parts of your home get the least attention. Take your gutters, for instance. They protect your house against wet weather, safeguard your foundation, and help to prevent mold buildup. Yet, chances are you never think about them unless they’re clogged or damaged. At that stage, however, you’re likely to have bigger problems on your hands. That’s because, when gutters fail, the rest of your home pays the price. Here’s what we mean:

  • Gutters direct rainfall away from your exterior walls. This is important because, when rain pools against your foundation, the consequences may include a flooded basement, contaminated air, and even structural damage. These issues can threaten the health of you and your loved ones. Even an inch of rain can bring up to 1900 gallons of water crashing against your home, according to This Old House.
  • Gutters keep moisture away from your eaves and overhangs. When gutters fail, water can damage your roof supports and even enter your attic, causing extensive rot damage that will cost you thousands of dollar in repair bills. 
  • Gutters provide a route for melting snow and ice to leave your roof during the winter. Sometimes, though, water refreezes inside your gutters, making them sag and bulge. This can trap winter precipitation on top of your home for days or even weeks, possibly causing roof collapse.

As you can see, gutters play a crucial role in protecting your home. But, for them to do their job, you must protect them from threats like corrosion and clogs. These problems occur most often in the fall, since falling leaves and brisk winds can cause debris to build up almost overnight. So, now that fall will be turning to winter, now is the time to perform the following gutter maintenance steps:

  • Clean the insides of your gutters. It’s best to do this around mid-fall and once again just before winter hits. You’ll need a sturdy ladder, work gloves, a paint scraper or similar tool, and a garden hose. Use the scraper to remove leaves, pine cones, and anything else impeding water flow. Spraying out the gutters with a hose will make the job go more quickly. Pay special attention to the downspouts, as these often clog first. Once everything is spick and span, consider adding a leaf guard, which will help keep debris out of your gutters all year long. 
  • Check for holes in the gutter material and repair them with roofing cement or silicone caulk. While you’re at it, look for loose seams and repair them with metal screws.
  • Check the spikes, also known as “ferrules,” which bind the gutters to your home. Tighten or replace as needed.
  • Check the downspouts for holes, loose sections, and other problems. If the spouts clog often, then you may need to install larger ones.

Use the material you remove from your gutters as either mulch or compost. It’s amazing how so-called “waste” can beautify your plants in the spring and summer.

While You’re At It…

There’s no point in gathering all the tools and supplies needed for gutter maintenance without performing other vital chores at the same time. These tasks should include:

  • Checking HVAC, carbon monoxide, and air purifier filters, and cleaning or replacing them as needed.
  • Closing off gaps or holes in your foundation that can cause pipes to freeze.
  • Checking your property for trash or other debris.
  • Trimming hedges and tree limbs.
  • Putting your garden and flower beds to rest for the winter by covering them in organic mulch. Colder climates require at least 3-4 inches of mulch, according to experts at the University of Vermont.

Taking time to maintain your gutters now will prevent big trouble down the road. Your home will thank you for the effort by sheltering you and your family in comfort when winter arrives.

Paul Denikin is passionate about sharing his experiences working on DIY projects to benefit people with special needs children. His website is

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