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Winterize Your Gutters

It's a nasty job, but someone has to clean and repair the gutters before winter. If you haven't done it yet, you better get started.

CBS News This Morning's home improvement contributor Bob Vila explains how to get your roof ready for winter's weather.


It is important to clean your gutters before winter for two main reasons:

First, trees have dropped their leaves, and many will find their way onto your roof and into the gutters. Instead of the gutters directing water away from the house, it can spill over the side, damaging the siding and foundation.

Second, if water trapped in the gutter freezes as the temperature drops, the ice can damage not only the gutter, but the roof as well, causing leaks inside.

The first step is to just get up on the ladder and clean out all the leaves and whatever else you may find. It is not pleasant work, but you have to scoop out the gook.

There are a variety of products that can keep the leaves out of the gutters. There are gutters with built-in covers and ones that attempt to prevent leaves from washing off the roof into the gutters.

But if your existing gutters are continually filling up with leaves, you can get gutter screens.

Of course, leaves piling on top of the screens is just as problematic; there is no maintenance-free solution.

While you are cleaning, it is a good idea to inspect the gutters for any damage.

Typical problems are holes, either where steel gutters have rusted through or where branches have poked holes in aluminum or copper gutters.

You may also find that your gutters have begun to sag or have seams that have begun to separate.

The good news is that these are easy fixes. If you have a leaking seam or a hole, the repairs are very similar.

If a joint between two gutters is leaking, remove any debris and water around the joint.

Once the area is cleaned up, take a screw driver and stiff wire brush and scrape away the old sealer. Then recoat the area with gutter sealant, available at any hardware store or home center.

If there's a hole in the gutter, make a patch.

  • First clean the area and go over it with a stiff wire brush.
  • Take a tube of roofing cement (available at the hardware store) and apply a healthy coat around the damaged area.
  • Then take a piece of metal, but make sure it is of the same type as the gutter material itself (use steel with steel, aluminum with aluminum) and set it in the damaged area.
  • Then apply another coat of roofing cement over the patch.
And with winter coming, there is a way to help prevent ice from forming on the roof, damaging the house or gutters: use a deicing cable.

It assures that an "ice dam" does not form along the roof during the winter when snow and ice tend to cluster.

You attach it along the edge of the roof in a zigzag pattern with clips and it plugs into a regular outlet.

It generates heat, making sure any meling ice or snow has a clear path to the gutter and away from the house.

Or take an old pair of panty hose and fill it with an ice melter, such as is used on a sidewalk.

Toss it up on the roof intersecting the gutter, and it will give water a path to travel off the roof if your gutter fills with ice.

For more information from Bob Vila, visit his Web site.

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