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Don’t forget your gutters!


It’s that time of year again.

Before winter gets into full swing, and again in the spring, your home’s gutters should be checked and cleaned. This should be done even more often if your home is surrounded by trees.

“It’s important to assure your gutters aren’t clogged up with leaves and branches so that when winter comes water won’t build up and cause bigger problems,” says Joan Bates, Vice President at Bates Insurance Agency Inc. “If rain and water can’t flow through the gutters like they should, the water can freeze and form an ice dam.”

Ice dams can cause serious damage, not only to a roof but even to the inside of a home. Though coverage varies by insurance company and individual policy, many homeowner policies will cover damage caused by an ice dam such as:

  • Interior water damage
  • Damage to shingles and siding
  • Damage to insulation in walls and attics
  • Mold and mildew

Yet some homeowner’s policies may exclude claims if it’s determined the damage was caused by lack of home maintenance.

That’s why it’s imperative you keep an eye on those gutters. Since cleaning gutters and checking downspouts requires using a ladder, Bates notes it’s safest to hire a professional. For determined do-it-yourselfers, make sure you at least have a spotter to hold the ladder for you.

“Focusing on home maintenance now can make all the difference down the road,” Bates says. “Gutters that freeze or pull off from the home can cause a homeowner much bigger problems and require more expensive fixes.”

Bates says if a homeowner does notice ice dams or snow buildup on their roof this winter, it is best to contact an experienced professional with the appropriate equipment to tackle the problem.

“Snowy, icy roofs are a slippery and dangerous place,” she says. “It’s important for homeowners to be aware of these problems but not to expect they can solve them all themselves.”

If your home is damaged by an ice dam, contact your insurance agent to determine if the cost of repairs will be covered. Although you shouldn’t make any permanent repairs before the insurance adjuster’s inspection, you may make repairs necessary to protect your home from further damage.