When they are properly maintained gutters and downspouts do a wonderful job of diverting water and protecting your home. While this is a year-round job, a well-functioning gutter system is never more important than in the winter. Without proper gutter maintenance accumulated ice and snow can cause some serious damage to your gutters and foundation that will require expensive and time-consuming repairs to rectify.
Thankfully, by understanding what you can do to prep and maintain your gutters and downspouts in the winter you can reduce the risk of any damage and ensure your home is protected.
Gutters Should be Clean and Clear
While there is no doubt you’ve heard it before, ensuring that your gutters are clean and clear of dirt and debris is never more important than in the winter. When dirt and debris are left to accumulate inside your gutters it can cause clogging that slows or stops the water’s ability to drain. In the winter the water stuck in your gutters can freeze and turn into ice. The extra weight on your gutters from ice and snow build-up can cause cracks or even begin to separate the gutter from your home.
Another reason keeping your gutters clean in the winter is so important is because a clogged gutter could allow for the creation of an ice dam. Ice dams are thick blocks of ice that can build up along the eaves and edges of your roof when the water running down your roof is unable to drain into your gutters. Not only can ice dams detach the gutters from your home completely and damage your roof shingles, but the standing water created as the ice dams begin to melt can seep in through your roof and cause damage to your attic and interior walls.
Fortunately, cleaning out your gutters before the freeze is a simple and cost-effective way to prep your gutters for winter and decrease the risk of any damage to your home.
Inspect for Rust, Leaks, and Holes
Once your gutters are clear of any debris it’s time to inspect them. You will want to look for any signs of rust, leaks, or holes in your gutter system. You’re most likely to see these things at the gutter joints where the sections of the gutter meet. If your gutters look exceptionally dented, rusty, or old then it may be time to replace them. A gutter installation specialist can replace your old gutters or make any necessary repairs if you are not quite ready to replace them.
Don’t Forget the Downspouts!
Your gutters are not the only part of your gutter system that you should maintain in the winter. Downspouts can also get clogged with dirt and debris that prevents water from draining. You can test your downspouts for clogging by using a hose to run water into your gutters and checking to make sure it is properly draining out of your downspouts. If you are unable to see or clean away the cause of a clogged downspout a professional gutter cleaning service will be able to remove it for you. You should also check your downspouts for any rust, leaks, or holes when you are checking your gutters for them.
Install Leaf Guard
Installing a leaf guard (also called a gutter guard) is a great way to protect your gutters, save yourself some time, and put your mind at ease. Leaf guards serve as a cover for the top of your gutters that keeps debris out while allowing water to enter and drain through the system unobstructed. Without dirt and debris clogging up your gutters in the winter water will be able to flow through and make it more difficult for ice to form. Not only that, but leaf guard can reduce the need for gutter maintenance year-round and help to extend the life of your gutters.
Solutions for a Frozen Gutter
Winter weather can be brutal and sometimes your preparations may not be enough to prevent a frozen gutter or ice and snow buildup. Luckily there are a few methods that you can use to thaw out your gutters and mitigate any damage that may occur.
Melt Ice with Hot Water
Hot water and a great temporary solution to use when attempting to break apart and melt any chunks of ice that have formed in your gutters. It is important to exercise caution when using this method as it requires carrying a large container of boiling water with you up a ladder. If you would like to spare yourself all the up and down climbing, try attaching a water hose to the hot water supply from your water heater for a constant stream of hot water.
Use a Roof Rake
Using a roof rake may be a good option for you if you need to clear away any snow or say goodbye to any built-up ice dams. Roof rakes are relatively inexpensive and can be found in nearly any hardware store. The blade on a roof rake is softer than other rakes made with plastic or metal meaning it won’t leave scratch marks on your roof or gutters. The best part about this method is that using a roof rake will keep you safely on the ground.
The Stocking Method
The stocking method, or the pantyhose method as some may call it, can be used as both a preventative measure to keep ice from forming and to help melt any ice that has already formed in your gutters.
While products like salt or ice melt are usually fine on their own, they are both capable of corroding and causing long-term damage should they come into direct contact with your gutters. Fortunately, the stocking method allows you to use these products without causing harm to your gutters. Fill up an old pair of stockings with your choice of salt or ice melt and then tie the stockings closed. Next, place the stockings into your gutters or on top of any ice you want to melt away.
This method may take a little longer to work than others, but it is still a wonderful and commonly used technique for safely melting ice and protecting your gutters in the winter.