During the cold and rainy seasons, properly maintained gutters and downspouts are essential. A well-working gutter system ensures water from rainstorms and melting snow is directed away from the home exterior and foundation. While summer, spring, and fall can bring in a fair amount of rain depending on your location, winter is the most important time of the year to ensure your gutters are in tip-top shape. Expanding ice can lead to a host of issues that include damaged fascia and cracked foundations. Winter gutter maintenance is a simple process that can help prevent unnecessary damage and costly gutter repair in winter, saving you time and money in the long run.
Flush Out Gutter Clogs Before the First Snow
One way to get a head start on winter gutter maintenance is to give your gutters a good flush before the temperatures drop. Year-round, debris can find its way into roof gutters due to changes in the wind or leaves falling off hovering trees, and a buildup can lead to clogs and hindered water flow. To flush out your gutters in a DIY fashion, remember that safety is always first. Make sure you have someone who can spot you when you’re up on the ladder, and do not attempt to stand on the roof. You should be able to reach the gutters easily while standing safely on the ladder. You’ll need the following:
- A 10-foot ladder without an extension that safely reaches the roof/gutters
- A standard garden hose with spray nozzle
- A medium-sized bucket
- A hand rake or hand shovel to remove debris
Once you have your ladder safely set up, use your hand tools to remove larger debris, such as twigs and piles of leaves, then discard in your bucket. Next, take the spray hose and give the gutters a good flush. Check the downspout for any leaks, and make sure the water is trickling out of the spout at a slow but steady pace. Lastly, give the gutters one final flush with the spray hose. If you do find any leaks or damage during the DIY flushing process, it’s a good idea to consider installing replacement gutters before the first snow hits to ensure a stress and maintenance-free winter.
How to Prevent Ice Dams within Your Gutters?
The first step in preventing ice dams is to unclog your gutters. If you performed a pre-snow gutter flush, you’re on the right track. If your geographic location is hard hit in the winter, a sure-fire solution to preventing ice dams is to install ice and snow shields. Sometimes referred to as snow guards, these devices are crafted of metal and are typically used on slope roofs. The guards should be installed directly above the gutters and roof protrusions, and they work by preventing large drifts or avalanches from developing on the roof. The sloped design ensures that snow falls off bit by bit or melts before reaching the gutter or ground.
Adjust the Downspouts and Prevent Ice Buildup to Protect Foundation
A simple winter gutter maintenance tip that will help prevent excess water from reaching the foundation is to adjust the downspouts. If the downspouts are already installed so the water flows outward from the home, you’re in good shape. If the downspouts appear to be facing a bit too much toward the ground, simply shift the bottom portion slightly to change the water flow.
Another issue that may come up no matter how much preventative maintenance you do is snow and ice buildup inside the downspout or directly beneath it. When the ice melts, water can pool and lead to leaks in the foundation, and a buildup of ice in the downspout can actually back up into the gutter. Wrapping downspouts with heat tape before the first snow is a good way to prevent ice from forming. However, if you do find ice in the downspout, pouring hot water on the outside of the pipe can help to melt the ice and get things moving again.
If you have ice or snow buildup directly beneath the downspout, apply rock salt or commercial ice melting salt to the patches of snow or ice. Combined with sunlight, the salt will speed up the melting process. Just be sure to check for pooling and remove water puddles as soon as possible to prevent damage to the foundation.
Professional Winter Gutter Maintenance Services
While there are several DIY solutions to prepping and maintaining your gutters, there are times when professional gutter replacement is necessary. If you’re interested in replacing your home’s gutters to get ready for winter, our team at Thompson Creek is standing by.