Gutters receive a lot of attention during the rainy spring months, but in the winter, they are often neglected. Without regular, year-round maintenance, gutters can cause serious problems. Fortunately, there are a few surefire ways for homeowners to protect their gutters during winter months. Listed below are three common gutter issues and preventative tips for avoiding them.

Why Is Gutter Protection Important?

When not properly attended to, gutters can become damaged and can ruin the exterior of the home. Three common gutter issues are debris, pests, and ice dams.

gutter full of leaves and baseball
  • Debris. When leaves, twigs, and other debris clog gutters, it causes the water to overflow and pool around the home. This can lead to leaky basements, landscape problems, and frost heave or severe cracks in the foundation, among other gutter debris issues.

  • Pests. Gutters also make welcoming homes for unwanted pests, such as carpenter ants, mosquitoes, squirrels, and even birds. Gutters can help insects enter the home through the roof or vents, and squirrels and birds can cause further damage on the outside.

  • Ice dams. Ice can clog gutters during the winter months. The ice can trap water on the roof, which leads to leaks and water damage, and the water can overflow and freeze, causing dangerous ice to form on pathways. In some cases, the weight of the ice can actually pull the gutters from their hinges and off the roof.

3 Tips for Gutter Protection

man working on gutters
  • Protection from debris. To protect against clogs, homeowners should have their gutters cleaned regularly, especially before the winter season begins. It’s also wise for homeowners to invest in leaf protection for gutters. Gutter screens or gutter guards allow water in but keep other debris out, which reduces clogs and minimizes the risks to foundations and basements.

  • Protection from pests. Gutter guards or gutter screens provide great protection from pests. Squirrels and birds are less likely—and able—to make their homes in enclosed gutters, and the screens reduce the amount of leaves in the gutters, making them a less optimal home for pesky insects. Homeowners may also want to consider putting nontoxic pest repellent around the gutters to deter vermin.

  • Protection from ice dams. To prevent ice clogs, some experts suggest running electric heating cables inside gutters and downspouts. This will help melt snow and ice and will keep the gutters clear. Some experts also suggest filling cloth tubing with ice-melting compounds and laying it on the roof to melt the ice before it reaches the gutters. Homeowners should read the instructions and warnings on the compounds first, as some can cause other problems, like discoloration to the home’s exterior. Find out more about dealing with ice dams.

From cleaning to electrical wiring, a lot of work goes into gutter protection. Fortunately, homeowners don’t have to take on the burden themselves. There are a number of Best Pick gutter cleaners and installers that will be happy to help.

View Local Gutter Installation Companies

Additional Sources: Allstate; SF Gate.