Can You Clean Your Gutters In Winter?

Can You Clean Your Gutters In Winter?

Dried leaves filling gutter

Most homeowners instinctively think that the best time to clean gutters is in the fall after the last leaf drops from their trees. While this is a time of year when you should have your gutters cleaned, it is not the only time.

The autumn and spring seasons create a lot of debris for roofs and gutters but winter has its challenges and there are instances when you can clean your gutters in winter as well.

Here, we’ll talk about the problems that can occur during wintertime and what homeowners need to be on the lookout for to ensure the integrity of their gutter system and the safety of their homes. We’ll learn when you can clean your gutters in winter and why you should. 

Reasons it is Important to Clean Your Gutters in Winter

Paying attention to your gutters during the cold months is generally not top of mind for homeowners, but it is probably the most important time of year to make sure that you have a fully functioning gutter system and no clogged gutters.

Despite a late autumn gutter cleaning schedule, additional debris can still accumulate such as leaves, twigs, and nuts that fall from trees. This debris can create clogs that then trap ice and snow on your roof, potentially damaging your roof and shingles, and creating leaks.

It is also important to ensure that water flows away from your home’s foundation. Pooling water next to your house has the potential to seep inside and cause damage to your foundation, walls, and interior. 

The Dangers of Not Cleaning Your Gutters in Winter

The potential for gutter damage

Snow, ice, and debris can be very heavy. Any gutter or downspout blockage, along with snow and ice, can add considerable weight on top of your roof, causing damage to the boards where the gutters are mounted.

Additionally, clogs can trap moisture in the corners and junctions of your gutter system. As temperatures drop and water freezes, the ice will expand into the corners and junctions. This expansion can cause damage or leaks in your gutter system.

The potential for leak damage

Leaks can create considerable damage to the walls of your home as water is no longer diverted away. This can even lead to problems with flooding and damage to the foundation of your home.

Unfortunately, most homeowners do not recognize the hazard until they discover dampness or mold and mildew. This “silent” damage can take months or years to identify so it's important to minimize this risk by having a fully working gutter system that directs water away from your home.

General Gutter Cleaning Caused by Debris in Winter

If you missed your autumn cleaning or new debris has accumulated in your gutters, you may be tempted to wait until spring to clean your gutters. The risk of this is that any winter rain, sleet, or snowfall can result in more water than your gutters are equipped to handle. Any debris buildup will prevent adequate water flow or water melt flow causing clogs and potential damage to your gutter system, roof, and interior of your home.

If there is any ice accumulation during winter, the debris will create even bigger clogs, potentially creating hazardous ice dams. Winter gutter cleaning should not be delayed.

Preventing Downspout Clogs and Ice Buildup in Your Gutters in Winter

Having your downspouts thoroughly cleaned before winter will go a long way to minimizing any debris, ice, and snow buildup during winter. If you notice that water is not flowing freely, or not at all, you likely have a clog that must be immediately addressed. If water can not run through the downspouts, it will run over the gutters instead and pool next to the foundation of your home.

Regardless of the number of times you remove debris or ice dams from your gutters, they will continue to accumulate as long as the downspouts are clogged.

Detach Your Rain Barrels from Your Gutters in Winter

Pro tip: For homeowners that use water barrels to collect rainwater, be sure to detach the downspout from the barrel until warmer weather returns. This helps to keep rainwater and melted snow flowing through your gutters and downspouts and away from your home.

This will also protect the integrity of your rain barrel which may experience stress or cracking if ice forms within it.

Ice Dam Formation Will Require You to Clean Your Gutters in Winter

Ice damming is the accumulation of ice in your gutters caused by melting snow on your roof. In some cases, the melted snow forms back into ice resulting in icicles hanging from your gutters. This accumulation of ice within your gutters, and hanging from them, can be very heavy resulting in your gutter system potentially deattaching from your roof, breaking, or cracking.

Besides damage to your gutter system, ice dams can also loosen your shingles creating a risk for water to leak inside your home.  

How ice dams form

Ice dams commonly form in gutter systems on houses that have inadequate attic insulation. As heat collects in the attic from inside the home, the roof is warmed.  As the roof and shingles warm, they encourage accumulated snow to melt and flow down towards the eaves. Especially heavy snowfalls create added pressure on the lower layers of snow, encouraging greater melt. 

You might expect that the melted snow would simply drain through the gutters and downspouts, but once the water reaches the eaves, they experience a return to colder temperatures. If the weather is cold enough, water will refreeze as ice, forming a dam. As the ice accumulates, any additional melted water will run over the gutters and form those beautiful icicles that become dangerous daggers as they eventually fall off.

Any meltwater that does not travel through the gutters or runs over and forms icicles, gets backed up under the shingles where it can leak into your house.

Removing ice dams

Hiring a gutter service is the safest way to remove ice dams during inclement weather conditions. The ice will be broken up and removed so that meltwater can move freely through your gutter system.

In most cases, gutters must be removed first to safely and effectively break up the ice without damaging the gutter system or your roof.

Preventing ice dams

There are many ways to prevent ice dams but the biggest factor is the difference in temperature between the roof and the eaves.

Ways to solve this include proper ventilation, sealing off any air leaks that can warm the underside of your roof, and ensuring that you have the proper attic insulation. With the proper attic insulation, you can prevent the difference in temperatures that cause the roof to be warmer than the eaves. Once the roof and eaves are at the same temperatures, you can eliminate the problem of ice dams forming.

The added benefit of adequate attic insulation is that you will also benefit from saving on your home heating costs!

Contact Ned Stevens to Clean Your Gutters in Winter

Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaning of Long Island has been serving homeowners in Nassau County and Suffolk County since 1965 and are experts in gutter cleaning with the experience to handle winter gutter cleaning, including ice dam removal. 

Contact us today for your gutter cleaning, gutter repair, or gutter replacement needs.

You can also ask about our cost-saving contract options for seasonal gutter cleaning. We’ll work with you to determine what the right schedule is for your home and, using our services, you will never have to worry about scheduling your gutter cleaning again! 

Contact us today for a free estimate.

Erika Cruz

Erika began her career at Ned Stevens in September 2009 after 4 years of managing investment portfolios for banks and credit unions. She graduated with her business degree in Management in May of 2016 while working Full-time at Ned Stevens. With 11 years of gutter expertise, as office manager she is in charge of the day to day operation and is fully dedicated to her staff and customers.