Your gutters are a crucial part of your home’s infrastructure, doing the job of channeling water runoff away from your foundations and into an appropriate drainage location. However, what happens to your gutters in the winter while everything is frozen? Here in Syracuse, we get the most annual average snowfall of any metropolitan area in the United States, and now that it’s January, we’re smack dab in the middle of winter, when all that snow and ice is coming thick and fast.

Types of Winter Gutter Damage

When winter throws snow and ice your way, your gutters can be hit in one or more of these ways:

  • Ice dams
  • Icicles
  • Snow-packed gutters
  • Ice-packed gutters
  • Clogged downspouts
  • Broken or bent gutters from bearing too much weight

How To Spot Gutter Problems in Winter

One of the biggest signs that you have a problem with your gutters is that your home’s roofline is lined with icicles. While icicles are a beautiful and magical-looking part of winter, they do not spell good news for your gutters or your roof.

The other big sign that you have a major gutter issue is that your roof is leaking. If you see or suspect a leak, the ice could have migrated up and over the rim of your gutters and backed up underneath your shingles. This is called an ice dam, and it can require you to undergo costly roof repair.

The Best Way to Avoid Winter Gutter Problems

As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The best way to avoid the hassle of a big problem with your gutters during the winter is to take the proper precautions during the fall. Make sure that your gutters are cleared out and completely free of debris, so that water flows freely through them and exits in a timely manner, rather than backing up and freezing.

It’s easy to schedule a gutter cleaning! All you have to do is to contact the friendly gutter professionals at Iron Horse Gutter Works. We’ll get your gutters as clean and happy as they can be.

However, beyond simply cleaning out any leaves, pine needles, dust, and other debris that might have accumulated in your gutters, there are a few other techniques that you can also use to protect your gutters in winter.

1. Make sure that your gutters are properly reinforced with the right braces to hold them up.

Gutters that get overloaded with ice and snow during the winter are prone to bend or break under the weight.

2. Try a type of gutter that shields the inside of the gutter from snow buildup.

Try the same LeafLock gutter technology that homeowners love for being resistant to getting clogged with leaves. When you keep out the snow, you keep out a big percentage of the potential problems.

3. On the really heavy snowfalls, scrape the excess snow off your roof.

Scraping the snow off your roof will relieve the roof from extra weight, but it will also help prevent common winter problems from happening to your gutters.

4. Before winter hits, try installing a gutter heating element.

Gutter heating products run the length of your gutter and can be switched on and off depending on the need for them to help melt gutter ice.

5. Make sure your roof is properly insulated.

After a light snow (say 1-2 inches), step outside and look at your roof in comparison with your neighbors’ roofs. Is your roof melting all the snow, but you notice that snow is sticking to the neighbors’ roofs? This is a sign of a poorly-insulated roof. If your roof is too warm, it will be melting more of the the snow that falls on it, creating a bigger volume of water that your gutters have to handle. This can lead to more ice buildup and greater gutter problems (not to mention sky-high heating bills). Proper insulation will mean that the surface of your roof is kept colder, making it less likely that you’ll experience ice dams and roof leaks.

Tips you should NOT try if your gutters are full of ice

So you’re stuck with gutters that are groaning under a load of ice and you don’t know what to do? Here are three techniques that you can cross off your list right away — they won’t solve your gutter issue.

First, don’t bother to pour boiling water into your gutters.

The boiling water is no match for the ice that’s already there. Before the boiling water reaches the downspouts, it will have probably cooled down, and it’ll end up only adding to your ice buildup.

Second, don’t try using a torch to melt the ice in your gutters.

You can catch your roof on fire. The tar paper or rubberized water-shield membrane under your shingles is flammable, not to mention the wood on your soffits. But even if you’re super careful and don’t ignite anything, the torch can only treat a localized area of your gutter, not the whole thing, and you won’t make any headway against your ice problem.

Third, don’t try to use a tool or chisel to chip or break the ice to get rid of it.

You’ll only end up breaking your gutters, too.

The best way to proceed is to contact a professional gutter expert to free your gutters of ice as safely as possible.

Contact Iron Horse Gutter Works today

For winter service on your gutters, please be sure to contact the gutter professionals at Iron Horse Gutter Works. If you see any kind of gutter damage, icicles, or any signs that your gutters are building up with ice, please get in touch with us. Our gutter installation company looks forward to serving you.