As the winter months approach, it is important to remember to clean your gutters properly. When your gutters are full of leaves and other debris, they can cause water buildup, which can go under your roof and end up leaving cracks in your foundation.

In fact, poor water drainage is often one of the most common issues we find on home inspection reports in NEPA.

Avoid the ill effects of water damage from clogged or cracked gutters by winterizing them with this 5-step guide.

The Importance of Winterizing Your Gutters

Winterizing your gutters is important for the safety of your gutters as well as your home.

  • Maintaining Structural Integrity: Ensuring your gutters are securely fastened and free of clogs helps maintain their structural integrity under the weight of snow and ice. This prevents potential damage to the gutter system itself and to your roofline.
  • Preventing Water Damage: Clearing out gutters before winter prevents water from backing up and seeping into your home’s foundation or basement, which can cause costly water damage and mold growth.
  • Preserving Landscape: Properly winterized gutters direct melting snow away from your home’s foundation and landscaping, protecting them from excessive moisture that can lead to erosion and plant damage.
  • Extending Gutter Lifespan: Regular maintenance and winterization can extend the lifespan of your gutters by preventing rust, corrosion, and structural damage caused by freezing and thawing cycles.
  • Avoiding Safety Hazards: Clean gutters prevent dangerous icicles and ice buildup around your home, reducing the risk of injury to yourself and others from falling ice or slippery pathways.

Do Gutters Cause Ice Dams?

One reason people winterize their gutters is to avoid costly ice dams. However, ice dams are not formed or influenced by gutters and are often the result of poor insulation in the roofing area that leads to moisture buildup.

Considerations for Different Types of Gutters

While most gutters are made of seamless aluminum, it’s not unheard of to find steel, vinyl, or even zinc gutters lying around NEPA.

Depending on the type of material your gutter is made of, it may be vulnerable to the harsh effects of winter. Lighter materials like vinyl may crack under the added weight and pressure of ice and snow buildup.

Steel gutters are often vulnerable to rust, as are copper and zinc gutters.

Aluminum gutters provide a good middle ground, though they are doubly susceptible to dents and rust, so winterizing them is crucial for their longevity.

5 Ways to Winterize Your Gutter

Looking to maintain the health of your home and your gutters? Here are five tips to winterize your gutters and ensure they work properly.

1. Clean Your Gutter

First, you need to clean out all debris from your gutters that may be impacting its ability to divert water from your house. Even just a few leaves, acorns, or sticks can cause water to buildup, which then freezes and expands to break your gutters.

Cleaning your gutters can be done on your own or with the help of a professional.

The best tool to use when cleaning your gutter is an old plastic spatula. This will not scratch your gutter, and you can even cut it to fit! The plastic also allows for easy clean-up afterward. A plumber’s snake is also a great tool for cleaning out downspouts. You should try to clean your gutters at least once a year, and more if you have a lot of overhanging trees or after a bad storm.

2. Perform an Inspection

A gutter inspection can tell you whether or not it is properly diverting water. You can do this yourself by checking to see that rain is properly exiting each of your gutters or you can have a home inspector perform an inspection for assurance.

3. Add Extra Protection

Leaf guards will prevent large debris from ever entering your gutters, giving you the luxury of avoiding cleanup duty. For many homeowners, it comes down to a question of whether or not they want to invest the money to have them installed upfront or to get their gutters cleaned during the later part of the year.

4. Ensure Gutters Are Aligned

Another important to do is to ensure that your gutters are properly flush with your building and are not sagging or falling off. Misaligned gutters can allow water to penetrate between gaps and buildup around your foundation.

5. Improve Your Attic’s Insulation

If you want to avoid ice dams that crack and bend your gutters, then you need to improve your attic or roof’s insulation. Talk to an insulation specialist about the best way to insulate your attic and avoid costly ice dams. New insulation will confer several benefits, from preventing your pipes from freezing to lowering your energy bills.

Don’t Overlook Your Gutters

Of all the big to-dos a homeowner has to deal with, gutters may not be your biggest priority. But making the effort to clean and inspect your gutters periodically–especially during the fall–can save you thousands in costly repairs and extend the life of your gutters.

For more advice on how to winterize your gutters, reach out to a gutter specialist or a full-service home inspector like Mountain to Valley Home Inspections.