Winter FAQs: All You Need To Know About Gutters & Gutter Guards In The Coldest Season

At times, it seems like the only season where gutters are not top of mind is summer. After all, spring and autumn keep gutter cleaning on homeowners’ to-do lists with all the seasonal debris that trees drop. Summer is a coveted break from this annoying chore, but wintertime brings its own set of concerns. While some are primarily focused on clearing snow out of their driveways and sidewalks, others see ice dams forming on their gutters… or worse, as in the case of sagging gutters or entire systems that rip away from the roof.  

Can you install gutters in the winter? How can I keep my gutters from freezing over in the colder months? At LeafFilter, we often field questions from homeowners on our social media pages, and we’re happy to help! However, your questions inspired our team of experts to put together a quick reference guide to answer your most burning questions about wintertime gutter maintenance, concerns, and more. Check it out: 

Should you take down gutters in the winter?

Gutters are important, believe it or not. They are channels designed to carry water away from the most vulnerable parts of a house, like the roof and foundation. When spring showers arrive and snowmelt becomes an issue, the absence of gutters could cause all sorts of problems. The most minor problems are occurrences like disturbance of soil and landscaping in your flower beds, but bigger problems like basement flooding can arise around this time.  

Often, we find that homeowners ask this question because they are concerned about the formation of ice dams. While clogged gutters can definitely 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 such a hot (cool?) topic that they have their own Wikipedia page. Essentially, ice dams are massive sheets of ice that form near the edge of a roof. While it is easy to assume that the gutters themselves are responsible for ice dams since they are often covered by ice, they are not the culprit. Ice dams are caused by a loss of heat within the roof, often resulting from somewhere near its peak. As gutters are not typically heated, this is often the portion of the roof that is coldest. As snow melts and slides down the roof, it freezes again upon reaching the colder sections. Don’t stress, however… ice dams are preventable! 

How do I prevent ice dams on my roof?

Ice dams form at the mercy of environmental factors, including air that is below freezing and a nice thick layer of snow that is settled upon the roof. However, there are steps that can be taken to ensure they do not form or to minimize their formation. 

First, increasing and adjusting the amount of insulation in an attic space can help prevent heat loss. You could also consider heat tape (also called heating cables, among other names), 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, damage may incur to shingles, and the risk of electrical fire is elevated with heat cables.  

There’s also another solution, but this one often necessitates long-term planning and a bit of budgeting. Upgrading to a more slippery style of roof, like metal roofs, can prevent a thick, fluffy layer of snow from settling on the roof and freezing. Metal roofs often come with a high price tag, but they also have a long lifespan that stretches beyond that of 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.

Does gutter protection cause ice dams?

Gutter protection neither promotes nor prevents ice dams, as they truly are an issue caused by heat escaping from the roof. However, a quality gutter guard like LeafFilter, can pay off. 

Occasionally, warm winter days will cause snow to melt prematurely. If your gutters are clogged, you may face risk of overflow. When this overflow freezes again, well… it can be both problematic and expensive to address. Icicles may form, and their weight can cause damage to gutters.

Is gutter protection strong enough to last through winter?

Not all gutter protection is created equal! Oftentimes, DIY solutions like screens, brushes, and foam gutter guards can 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 support to make both the guards and your home’s gutters strong. Plus, its body is made of uPVC, which is coveted for its ability to withstand the elements. In fact, this is a material that is often found in other element-facing products like windows and doors, so homeowners can rest assured that their LeafFilter guards won’t warp, crack, or fade after a few winters.  

How can I keep my gutters from freezing in the winter?

Still concerned about the risk of freezing? If your gutters are clean and flowing, you can rest easy. Oftentimes, clogs are a major culprit of wintertime issues. LeafFilter’s lifetime warranty ensures your gutters stay clear all year round, which provides additional peace of mind. In many freezing environments, snow will gather inside and on your gutters no matter what you do. If your gutters can be easily reached, 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. When you work with LeafFilter, our team includes these services with every single installation… unless our team is installing brand new gutters!  

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

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 can also be installed in the winter for the same reason, but other types of gutter protection cannot be installed at this time of year. Many styles of gutter guards are situated under your shingles, which makes working with brittle rooftops nearly impossible in the winter months. This type of gutter guard is also notorious for voiding roof warranties, so it’s best to stay away from any type of 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 from clogged gutters creating overflow. Either way, it’s best not to knock icicles down. In addition to falling debris posing a threat to your safety, large pieces of ice may damage your home. In extreme instances, ice can even cause your gutters to rip away from the roof. 

Can I put ice melt on my roof?

Ice dams and icicles are concerning, but placing rock salt or chemical solutions on your roof and in your gutters is not as good an idea as it seems. These solutions can damage both your shingles and the longevity of your gutter system, so it is best to avoid this method of prevention. 

How does LeafFilter perform in snowy climates?

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

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. Snow will sit on top of the gutter protection as opposed to inside the gutter, which creates a pocket of air. When the air around and inside the gutter begins to melt the snow, its meltwater will divert through your gutters and away from your home. By keeping your gutters clear all year-round, LeafFilter keeps your gutters prepped to perform as soon as snow begins to melt. 

Can I hang lights with gutter protection?

Hanging lights with gutter protection is as easy as adding clips to your gutters. Our blog offers insight into how to do this at your own home!  

What are the perks of installing LeafFilter in the winter?

Many homeowners opt to wait until spring to address gutter problems. During the winter, our calendars are lighter, which means we’ll be able to schedule your estimate and install more quickly. Plus, off-season pricing can get you more bang for your buck! You can schedule your free estimate today to take advantage of our winter schedule.  

Did you have a question that wasn’t addressed here? The LeafFilter team is passionate about helping homeowners. Connect with us on Facebook to keep the conversation going and to learn more about LeafFilter Gutter Protection.