blog detail

Winterize Your Gutters: How to Prepare for Snow & Ice

A homeowner looks at icicles with frustration
December 27, 2022
Maureen Beard
Read Time
6 minutes

Winter is officially upon us! Falling debris, snowfall, and freezing temperatures increase the chances of clogged gutters and water seeping into your roof or walls. And for many, an increased opportunity for ice dams to form. That’s why now’s the time to winterize gutters.

Can you install gutters in the winter? How can I keep my gutters from freezing over in the colder months? We often field these and similar questions from homeowners on our social media pages, and we’re happy to help! Our team of experts has put together this quick reference guide on winterizing your roof and gutters.

Should You Take Down Gutters in the Winter?

Gutters are essential to the upkeep of your home. Designed to carry water away from the most vulnerable parts of a house, like the roof and foundation. When spring showers arrive, snowmelt becomes an issue. The absence of gutters could cause all sorts of problems. Minor problems include the disturbance of soil and landscaping in your flower beds. At the same time, more significant issues like basement flooding can arise around this time.

Often, we find that homeowners associate winterizing gutters with gutter removal because they are concerned about the formation of ice dams. While clogged gutters can cause water to overflow and freeze in the winter, gutters do not cause ice dams.

Gutters covered with snow, ice, and icicles

Gutter problems often become more visible in the winter.

With the weight of snow and ice, some gutter systems may sag or even rip away from the home. Pictured here is an ice dam, a common condition seen across homes in snowy regions.

What Are Ice Dams?

Ice dams are massive sheets of ice that form near the edge of a roof. While it is easy to assume ice-covered gutters are responsible for ice dams, they are not the culprit.

Poor insulation and a loss of heat within the roof cause ice dams. Gutters are not typically heated, so this is often the portion of the roof that is coldest. As snow melts and slides down the roof, it freezes upon reaching the colder sections. Winterizing your roof and gutters is essential to preventing ice dams.

How to Winterize Gutters to Prevent Ice Dams

Ice dams form at the mercy of environmental factors, including air that is below freezing and a thick layer of snow on the roof. Take a few simple steps to minimize the formation of ice dams.

  1. Clear Out Gutter Debris
    If your gutters are full of leaves, sticks, and other debris, they cannot drain water running down the roof. Gathered water will inevitably freeze, adding weight and wear to your gutter system. The simplest solution to winterize gutters is keeping them clean.
  2. Properly Insulate Your Attic
    Increasing the amount of insulation in an attic space can help prevent heat loss. Less heat loss means lower utility bills and less snow melting on the roof. And less snow melting means less water freezing on roof edges and gutters.
  3. Apply Heat Tape to Your Gutters
    You could also consider heat tape, also called heating cables, which can cause ice dams to melt. However, they’re notoriously ineffective in snowy climates. The cycle of freezing and melting snow can cause ice dams to become even more problematic. Shingles may become damaged, and heat cables can elevate the risk of an electrical fire.
  4. Consider Alternative Roofing Materials
    A less common method to winterize gutters, but no less effective, is upgrading to a smoother roofing style, like a metal roof. A metal roof can prevent a thick, fluffy layer of snow from settling on the roof and freezing. Keep in mind this requires long-term planning and budgeting. Metal roofs often come with a high price tag but also have a longer lifespan than traditional roof styles.
An icicle overflows past clogged gutters, causing them to sag

Unprotected gutters may be damaged in the winter months.

Snow and ice can weigh upon gutters, causing potential damage. Here, a clogged, overflowing gutter has warped under the weight of heavy icicles.

How to Keep Gutters From Getting Damaged by Snow

Not all gutter protection is created equal when it comes to winterizing gutters. DIY solutions like screens, brushes, and foam gutter guards can often collapse or freeze under the weight of snow and ice. Plus, cheap building materials may become brittle and crack as temperatures fluctuate. However, quality products like LeafFilter are designed to make winter worries a thing of the past.

LeafFilter Gutter Protection is installed with internal structural supports to strengthen the guards and your home’s gutters. Its uPVC frame is coveted for its ability to withstand the elements. uPVC is a material often found in other element-facing products like windows and doors. Homeowners can rest assured that their LeafFilter guards won’t warp, crack, or fade after a few winters.

Quick Tip: Keep Your Gutters From Freezing

Still, concerned about the risk of freezing? If your gutters are clean and flowing, you can rest easy. Often, clogs are a major culprit of wintertime issues. In many freezing environments, snow will gather inside and on your gutters no matter what you do.

If you can easily reach your gutters, walking around the home with a broom and brushing snow off them is a quick and easy way to minimize the risk of ice formation.

Additionally, ensuring your gutters are properly pitched and free of any leaks, cracks, or other concerns is essential to keeping them in the proper condition to perform.

3 FAQ: How to Winterize Gutters

Can you install gutters and gutter protection in the winter?

Gutters can be installed in the winter, as these should not disturb brittle shingles or the roof. LeafFilter gutter guards can also be installed in the winter for the same reason. However, other types of gutter protection typically cannot be installed at this time of year.

Many gutter guards are installed under your shingles, making working with brittle rooftops nearly impossible in the winter months. These gutter guards are also notorious for voiding roof warranties, so it’s best to stay away from any guard that disturbs your roof, no matter the season.

Should you knock icicles off gutters?

Icicles, as previously mentioned, may be caused by heat escaping from your roof or clogged gutters creating overflow. Either way, it’s best not to knock icicles down. In addition to falling debris threatening your safety, large pieces of ice may damage your home. In extreme instances, disturbing ice can cause your gutters to rip away from the roof.

Can I put ice melt on my roof?

Ice dams and icicles are concerning. However, placing rock salt or chemical solutions on your roof and in your gutters is not recommended to winterize gutters. These solutions can damage your shingles and your gutter system’s longevity. Therefore, it is best to avoid this method of prevention.

An installer, using a special ladder that leans against the roof rather than the gutters, fits LeafFilter on a home.

Benefits of LeafFilter in Snowy Climates

LeafFilter has many benefits making it an excellent option for homes in snowy climates. Our corporate headquarters is located in the Lake Erie snowbelt, so we know a thing or two about heavy snow!

  • Strength & Durability Internal hidden hangers provide added strength to your gutter system, diminishing the risk of your gutters buckling or sagging under the weight of heavy snow and ice.
  • Innovative Design
    Snow will sit on top of the gutter protection instead of inside the gutter, creating a pocket of air. As the air around the gutter system melts the snow, meltwater passes through the gutter system and diverts away from your home.
  • Keeps Debris Out
    By keeping your gutters clear all year round, LeafFilter ensures your gutters are prepped to perform as soon as the snow begins to melt.

In Conclusion

Many homeowners opt to wait until spring to address gutter problems. But winterizing your gutters at the start of winter minimizes new gutter problems. Keeping your gutters clean of debris, ensuring proper insulation, and installing gutter guards, like LeafFilter, minimizes ice dams and potential gutter, roof, and home damage.

LeafFilter is here to help year-round, even in the coldest months. You can schedule your free estimate today to take advantage of our winter schedule.

Do you have a question? Connect with us on Facebook to keep the conversation going and to learn more about LeafFilter Gutter Protection.

Solve your gutter
Start your free
estimate now.
Get Estimate