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Avoid Winter Water Damage With These 4 Tips

Avoid Winter Water Damage With These 4 Tips

The fall season is well underway and for many autumn lovers, it evokes intense feelings of nostalgia. In many parts of the Western world, fall is a reminder of outdoor adventures with loved ones while sipping a hot, pumpkin-flavored beverage. Many farms open their doors to the public for apple picking and Oktoberfest celebrations kick into high gear.

But not everyone embraces the changing of the seasons. While some people are out celebrating the onset of their favorite season at the nearest brewery, others are dreading the impending wrath of winter weather.

If you live in a region that experiences all four seasons, then you fully understand how wet and messy winter weather can be. In fact, the name “winter” is derived from an old English word meaning wet or water.

As homeowners, we know that the words “wet” and “home” do not belong together.  But you won’t have to worry about your home falling victim to harsh winter weather if you winterize it. Yes, it’s true. You won’t have to worry! 

How can you avoid winter water damage?

Start here. Make a “Things To Do Before Winter list and add these four tips.

1. Clean Gutters

One of the most important ways to prevent water damage to your home is to clean the gutters. Whether you hire a pro or decide to tackle the task yourself, the job must be done. 

Gutters collect rain water from your roof and channel it away from your home through a downspout. The purpose is to deflect water away from the basement or foundation and deter water from seeping into the home.

If you live in a particularly wooded area, you already know how much debris from trees can accumulate in the gutters. The gutters can become very heavy and loosen if they are not cleaned out properly and regularly.

Ice damming is another problem that can occur if gutters are not cleaned properly before winter begins. An ice dam refers to an icy barrier that forms on the edge of a roof. Water can get trapped behind the ice dam and leak into a home causing major damage to walls, ceilings, and insulation.

Homeowners often ask if installing screens or caps on gutters is beneficial. Since nothing can really keep all debris out, you will still need to have your gutters cleaned every other year or so.

Keep in mind that screens and caps make it a little more difficult to clean gutters when the time comes and it may end up costing you more money in the end. 

2. Check Gutters For Leaks 

The fall season is a good time to check your gutter leads for cracks and leaks. Not only can ice damming occur, but leaks in the gutters can allow water to flow too close to your home’s foundation. Too much water near the foundation can cause instability and structural problems.

Mold growth can also become a problem if water leaks into a home. 

One obvious way to spot leaks is to look for areas with staining. It could be that your gutters need a “gutter apron.” Much like an apron worn to protect clothing, a gutter apron prevents water from dripping behind the gutters. The apron is secured under the roofing shingles in a delicate manner.

Home centers sell gutter aprons if you plan on making this a DIY project, however, be very careful not to damage the roofing shingles. If it’s your first time installing gutter aprons, you may want to hire a professional and learn from the pro. 


3. Properly Ventilate The Roof 

Ahhh the roof. Roofs have long been a source of stress for those of us who live in extremely cold climates with long winters. Homeowners never know what to expect after winter’s thaw. Some find roofing shingles strewn about on their property, while others find water inside their homes after the ice dams melt. 

Problems occur when the roof is not properly ventilated. But why?

The answer is fairly simple. When the roofing system absorbs heat and combines with humidity related moisture, ice dams form, rotting can occur, and water can damage the structural integrity of the roof and inside walls. 

The most effective attic ventilation system is one that includes intake and exhaust vents that allow continuous airflow. Not only will this prevent damage to the inside of your home, it preserves the longevity of the roof. 

If you are not a roofing professional, it is best to consult with a roofing contractor to determine the best way to increase airflow in the attic. 

4. Turn Off Exterior Water 

Protect your indoor and outdoor plumbing by shutting off exterior water faucets. Since freezing water can wreak havoc on the interior of your home (pipes that burst), you will want to turn off all exterior water valves. 

First, locate the individual shut off valves for each supply line inside your home. They are usually located near the main water valve (typically in a basement). This is where you will turn the water valve(s) off. Rotate the handle or the lever to the right (clockwise) and make sure you can’t turn it any further. 

Next, locate all exterior water valves. Outside faucets are vulnerable to freezing temperatures since they are not protected by insulation inside the home. Open the faucet or the hose bib to release any excess water. Allow for a minute or two to pass to ensure that all the water drains. 

Finally, you are ready to seal the deal. Once the water is turned off from the inside and drained from the exterior faucet (hose bib), turn off the outside faucet. 

At this point, you will have successfully winterized your exterior water source.


Extreme winter weather is unavoidable, but it doesn’t mean you can’t avoid winter water damage. If you follow these 4 tips, you can relax knowing that you prepared your home for harsh winter weather.