As a homeowner, you’re probably aware of the unspoken rule of gutter cleaning: once in spring, once in fall. Why you should do this is pretty straightforward—keeping the gutters clear will prevent rainwater from backing up and causing roof-threatening water damage.
But did you know that cleaning the gutters is part of something called “winterizing” your roof? (Yes, winter is now a verb!) Winterizing is something every homeowner should do in the fall. It’s critical that you get these chores done prior to the onset of snow, ice, and cold because once they arrive, it’s hard to get ahead. It’s not very convenient to lug boiling water up a ladder to melt the ice blocking a gutter.
During the course of the year, debris like leaves and sticks have gathered on your roof and gutters. If you don’t remove them, you place your home at risk during winter. So let’s see what tasks you can do quite easily in the fall to keep your roof—and home—safe during winter’s cold and wet.
1. Trim Overhanging Tree Branches
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Any branches that are the slightest bit weak can break beneath the weight of snow or ice. If there’s a tree near your roof, chances are you’ve got a few branches hanging low enough to do some damage if they snapped. Save yourself a load of trouble this winter by trimming away those close branches. Trim before starting on the roof itself so you’re not sweeping up debris more than once.
2. Clear Away Debris
The roof is a draw for debris buildup, especially those little valleys where extending structures join it—chimneys, vents, windows, etc. Leaving piles of debris is dangerous for a roof, especially in winter, because of snow and ice. Debris piles will retain water, leading to all kinds of water damage. Sweep off the dead leaves and sticks before you hit the gutters so you don’t have to clear them out twice.
3. Clean Out Gutters and Check Downspouts
As we’ve already talked about, one of the most important things to consider in winterizing the roof is the gutters and downspouts. If those are full of leaves and debris, how will the water drain? Poor drainage means backed up water, which in winter usually means ice buildup. Ice can melt and refreeze for months, leading to water damage like mold, roof leaks, and the need to replace shingles (think: expensive).
4. Do a Quick Roof Inspection
Now that your roof is clean (and you’re up on a ladder anyway), why not take this opportunity for a quick inspection? Brian Glasser of Value Roofing, a roofing company in Nashville, Tennessee, recommends looking for 3 major things: “Check for granulate loss in the gutters…check for silicone on exposed nail heads, and…check vent boots for dry rot. Those signs would indicate a potential leak or need for a roof replacement.” Granulate loss is an important marker—it reveals that asphalt shingles are failing. Check gutters for lots of tiny black granules. Next, look closely for nails. Exposed nail heads need to be sealed to prevent water leakage. Silicone is a long-lasting sealer, so if you see any nail heads, they should be covered with it. And finally, look closely at the base of any vents. If you detect dry rot around the boot that connects it to the roof, you know you’ve got a problem. Remember—granules in gutter, silicone on nail heads, and vent boots.
5. Check for Pests
Finally, you need to ensure that your roof isn’t a home for varmints like mice, squirrels, and birds. Check spaces that could be hollowed out—under eaves, in a corner where edges meet, in a gutter. Such pests can do mega damage to a roof, opening a hole for them to enter the house and for water to rush in. Also check for areas of weakness in the roof that a chilly animal might be able to push through.
If in the course of your winterizing project you see the need for repairs, you can choose to brave it yourself or call a professional. Either way, making these repairs before winter sets in provides major security for your roof. Plus your family will appreciate not having to collect water from a leaking chimney or share food with the local vermin!
Author: Value Roofing