Preparing Roof Gutters for Winter

While everyone is busy repairing their roofing shingles or replacing them all in preparation of winter, one part of the house that often gets left out in the preparations is the rain gutter. Unknown to many, the purpose of gutter installation is not to keep the edges of the roof hidden from public view, but to channel rainwater away from the ground and foundations. It also protects painted walls from water stains, prevents leaks in basements, reduces soil erosion, and can also be used to collect water for future use.

Rain gutters are particularly vulnerable to clogging due to their semi-enclosed structure. This is particularly evident in mid- to late-autumn, when falling leaves gather on the rooftops and a sudden downpour can sweep them into the gutter. The risks associated with water retention include clogging, both in the gutter and the downspouts; leaking ceilings, and gutter corrosion—particularly if the gutter is made of non-stainless or galvanized steel. In addition, ice dams can form in clogged rain gutters during winter, which increases the chances of roof collapse and further damage.

Clogging can be prevented by installing leaf guards, which could take the form of a simple mesh or screen; strainers; or a gutter cover. Make sure to discuss these options with your contractor prior to gutter installation.

If the building sits close to a tree, it might be time to consider trimming some of the branches that hang over the roof to reduce the number of leaves that could end up blocking the gutters and drain pipes. Performing a biannual inspection and cleaning with a brush or pressure hose can also clear the gutter and keep it free from debris.

While it sounds simple, clearing a gutter should not be taken lightly as there is an injury risk associated with using ladders. There is also the probability of spotting wild animals, such as snakes, small mammals, and birds, that have chosen to make their homes in the gutter or downspouts.

A periodic inspection will also reveal if the rain gutter is angled properly so that water goes straight to the spout. Uneven sheet metal, with dents or scratches, will retain water and be at risk of corrosion and leakage. Sagging gutters can be bogged down by the extra weight of the snow and collapse, injuring passersby, so it is advisable to have them propped up and properly braced.

The costs associated with gutter maintenance and inspection are far lower than those associated with gutter replacement and roof repair. There is absolutely no excuse for neglecting this part of the house until it is way too late. A competent roof and rain gutter repair contractor should be able to do the job while the weather is still favorable.