If you’re new to the area, it might surprise you to see many of your neighbors on their roofs in the fall, going into their gutters with gloved hands and scraping leaves and debris out. Obviously, you know that a clogged gutter cannot possibly do its job, but what’s with the collective cleaning urge that seems to grip Minnesotans around this time of year?

Well, it isn’t so much an urge as it is a necessity; wintertime can be hard on gutters around these parts, and both cleaning and proper winterization of this valuable investment can prevent anything from mold damage to ice dam formation.

We’ve talked about the ins and outs of winterization in a previous blog, but we haven’t yet gone into depth when it comes to gutters. Is there a more perfect time to do so than right before winter hits? We think not!

Below, Midwest Exteriors MN, a Lake Elmo roofing contractor, siding company, and gutter installation service, discusses why it’s important to winterize your gutters below, as well as steps that you as a homeowner can take to do so.

Why Prepare Your Gutters for Winter

In the dead of a Minnesota winter, you wouldn’t just walk outside in your summer clothes, right? You’d catch frostbite and hypothermia and probably require a very expensive trip to the hospital! Before making the trek out into our frozen tundra, you’d prepare yourself by bundling up—donning a heavy coat and a clunky waterproof pair of boots.

While we’re not suggesting you buy an expensive fur jacket for your gutters, we are suggesting that preparing them for winter helps keep them from breaking. After all, they’ll be sitting outside all season in the bone-chilling wind and snow. Of course, that’ll wear on them eventually!

Broken gutters are certainly not attractive, and they’re also expensive to replace. However, they also can seriously do some damage to your home. Poorly maintained aluminum gutters or copper gutters can cause:

Prevent Ice Dams

Ice dams, per the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Extension, form thanks to a complex interaction of heat and snow. “For ice dams to form,” the source states, “there must be snow on the roof and, at the same time, higher portions of the roof's outside surface must be above 32 degrees F (freezing) while lower surfaces are below 32F… The snow on a roof surface that is above freezing will melt. As water flows down the roof it reaches the portion of the roof that is below 32F and freezes. This causes the ice dam.”

This wintertime buildup of ice, water, and snow on your roof can, among other things, be caused by clogged gutters, since they prevent meltwater drainage.  Not only do ice dams put extra weight-strain on your roof, they can cause melted snow to seep between your shingles, resulting in water damage to your home and mold and mildew to follow.

And fungi isn’t something you want invading your home. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “For some people, mold can cause a stuffy nose, sore throat, coughing or wheezing, burning eyes, or skin rash. People with asthma or who are allergic to mold may have severe reactions. Immune-compromised people and people with chronic lung disease may get infections in their lungs from mold.”

Stop Pest Infestations

During the winter, mice and other pests seek a warm place to stave off the cold. Leaving twigs and other debris in your gutters can provide these pests with the resources they need to build their nests there—and, in the case of mice, chew their way inside your home. 

We cover stopping pest infestations in more detail in our roofing contractor blog.

Fend off Flooding and Standing Water

Though this won’t be as much of a problem when everything’s frozen over in the wintertime, things start to get much messier when it comes to flooding in the spring, when everything defrosts.

Standing water near your home’s foundation can quickly seep indoors, resulting in the all-too-common Minnesotan problem of springtime flooded basements. What’s worse, this flooding can cause mold and mildew to grow, requiring an expensive cleaning service to ensure your family’s health.

Gutter Winterization Tips

It’s clear that proper pre-winter gutter maintenance is crucial to protecting your home from water damage, your family from possible disease, and your pocketbook from unnecessary expenditures. How can the Minnesotan homeowner begin to prepare their gutters for a harsh winter season?

Do a Final Cleaning of Your Gutters After the Leaves Have Fallen

Though the autumn colors certainly are gorgeous, fallen leaves can clog gutters and lead to many of the problems outlined above. Climbing up and scraping out your gutters in that narrow window of time between the last leaf falling and the first snow can help keep them strong through the winter.

How do you clean your gutters? We’re glad you asked! Generally speaking, it’s a simple task that can be completed in a day or two, typically involving a garden spade, work gloves, and a bucket or tarp placed below the workspace. It does also involve a ladder and requires that you be comfortable with heights, though, so it’s not a chore that everyone can handle. If the thought of climbing up there and scooping out debris makes your skin crawl, hire someone else to do it. You’ll stay much safer.

Speaking of safety, gutter cleaning, whether it’s for seamless gutters or traditional models, asks that you follow a few rules for your own protection. We cover safety guidelines in our gutter installation blog. The short version: the right gear is critical, as is the right on-the-ground help.

Opt for Roof Replacement if Ice Dams Have Been an Issue

A large buildup of ice and snow on your gutters certainly doesn’t bode well for their longevity. An improperly installed or damaged roof can only facilitate these formations. Make sure to get it inspected and/or replaced if it’s contributing to your ice dam problem.

Curious if your roof is a candidate for replacement? We delve into the topic in detail in our roofing contractor blog.

Check Out Your Attic Insulation

Ice buildup in your gutters can be caused by heat escaping through your roof, which melts snow cover and allows it to refreeze on the much colder eaves. If it isn’t your roof itself that’s the problem, a lacking attic insulation could be to blame for the ice dams that are so hard on your gutters.

Need Gutter Replacement or Roof Replacement? Midwest Exteriors MN Can Help

Of course, if your gutters are already in need of replacement, getting the job done before winter hits is the best way to protect your home and pocketbook. For efficient gutter installation services and expert advice, give Midwest Exteriors MN a call today at 651-346-9477. We proudly serve Minneapolis HOAs and homeowners, as well as cities in the surrounding area.