Ways to Keep Gutters Working through Winter

In the past few days, Vancouver has been experiencing some wild weather. Meteorologists confirm the Lower Mainland is in the middle of a very active storm system. With all of the heavy rain and strong winds, homeowners might wonder if their gutter systems will last until spring. Here are some helpful ways to keep gutters working through the winter.

Spot Check for Clogs

Even if you had the gutters cleaned in the fall, there could already be enough bits of twigs and other kinds of debris to form clogs. After heavy rainfall or a severe storm, when there’s a break in the weather, take out the ladder and inspect the gutters for clogs.

Start your inspection at the gutter outlets and then along the length of each gutter run. Remove any debris with a gutter scoop. You’re not cleaning the gutters; you’re just removing the gunk as preventative maintenance. Check the downspouts for blockages and remove them if there are any.

Remember when using the ladder for home exterior winter maintenance to set it up on relatively dry even ground. Don’t spot check the gutters when it’s too windy.

Check the Gutters for Damage

While you’re on the ladder removing clumps of debris, also check the gutters for any signs of damage. Look for damage such as:

  • Stained fascia – could be a sign of leaks at the seems
  • Stained siding – often an indication of overflowing gutters
  • Sagging gutter sections – hardware has become loose
  • Cracks and holes – possible signs of deterioration or corrosion

If you’re comfortable making the repairs yourself, repair leaking seams and seal cracks. When the damage is very advanced replace the severely damaged gutter section with a new one. When you won’t be able to make the repairs yourself, hire a professional for the more serious issues; wait for spring to repair less urgent problems.

Check the Attic

When air escapes the attic, it can cause the snow to melt on the roof. An ice dam forms when the moisture freezes as the temperature drops. The ice remains underneath any new snowfall, creating a dam that prevents the runoff from draining into the gutters when the temperature rises. Ice dams can form inside the gutter if the water freezes in the gutter channel. Ice dams cause problems such as ruined insulation, damaged drywall, and the growth of mold and mildew.

Check the attic for proper insulation and ventilation. If you’re not sure whether the attic is sufficiently ventilated or it looks like you will need new or more insulation, consult a roofing contractor. He or she will be able to determine the best solution is for your home, including new insulation with a higher R-value or having vented soffit installed.

Check Gutter System Hardware

A windy day can really shake up a gutter system. Inspect gutter system hardware for any fasteners, screws, and anchors that are missing or have become loose.

See if the downpipes are still attached to the house and all of the downspout straps remain securely in place. Missing sections of the downspout should be replaced as soon as possible. If left unrepaired, water could seep into the foundation or flood the basement.

Spot Check for Potential Hazards

Your house is part of your property, and so are the gutters. Inspect the trees close to the house for any damaged limbs that could be blown onto the roof or into the gutters by strong winds during winter storms. Remove dead and/or broken branches and trim back any branches that could become a problem during heavy rains.

Check the roof for items that could damage the gutters should they become projectiles such as roofing shingles or loose flashings.