Gutter Issues in Winter: Common Problems and How to Prevent Them

ice on gutters

When winter weather hits, your home’s gutters can really take a beating. Freezing temperatures, heavy snow, and ice storms can wreak havoc on your gutters, leading to some frustrating and costly issues. Being proactive about winter gutter maintenance goes a long way toward preventing problems before they occur. Here we’ll look at some of the most common gutter troubles that crop up in winter and offer practical tips to avoid them.

Ice Dams

One of the most notorious winter gutter problems is the formation of ice dams. This occurs when snow on the roof begins to melt from heat escaping from inside the home. The water runs down and refreezes at the roof’s edge, forming a ridge of ice that blocks proper drainage. The ice dam causes water to back up under the shingles, leading to leaks, roof rot, and interior water damage.

Insulation and ventilation are the first steps in preventing ice dams from forming. Make sure your attic is adequately insulated to minimize heat loss and moisture buildup. Attic ventilation can also minimize snow melting on the rooftop. Installing gutter guards or covers prevents snow and debris buildup in the gutters, allowing water to flow freely. Heating cables along the roof’s edge and in the gutters will also help melt snow and prevent icing issues.

Clogged Gutters

Gutters clogged with leaves, debris, and ice are another common winter nuisance. Blocked gutters can’t effectively drain water from the roof, again leading to interior leakage and water damage. Excess weight from pooled water can even cause gutters to pull away from the fascia.

Routine gutter cleaning is crucial before winter hits. Make sure all leaves, sticks, and other debris are cleared out. Flushing gutters with a hose on high pressure helps remove small particles. Downspouts should also be checked for blockages. Continue monitoring gutters after storms and clear any new accumulations. Installing gutter guards provides an added protective barrier against debris buildup and icing.

Leaking Gutters

Leaks and cracks in gutters occur year-round but are especially problematic in winter. Ice expansion and contraction can worsen minor flaws in aging and damaged gutters. Water seeping from leaks can refreeze, leading to even bigger issues.

Inspect gutters thoroughly in fall and repair any trouble spots. Reseal joints with caulk and patch small holes. For larger sections of compromised gutter, replacement may be required. A protective gutter sealant applied before winter can help reinforce gutters and prevent new leaks. Routinely check gutters after freezing rain or thaws for any new cracks. Address new problems immediately before they grow.

Frozen Gutters

In very cold climates, gutters can completely freeze over, becoming blocked solid with ice. This creates an effective dam that prevents proper roof drainage. Signs include large icicles hanging from the gutters and water visibly backing up beneath shingles.

Insulating or heating gutters helps prevent complete freezes. Foam gutter covers provide insulation against the cold. Heating cables installed in the gutters will keep the area above freezing. Making sure all downspouts are clear and unobstructed also improves drainage before freezing occurs.

Sagging Gutters

damaged gutter due to ice during winter
Beware of the effects of a heavy load of snow that builds up on your gutters.

Heavy, dense, wet snow can overload gutters and cause sagging over time. The weight of packed snow and ice puts strain on gutter hangers, sometimes pulling sections out of alignment. This can lead to cracks and gaps that cause leaks.

Reinforce gutters before winter by clearing debris, installing snow guards, and adding extra hangers as needed. Use screws with washers to firmly re-anchor hangers into the fascia board. Avoid trying to clear heavy snow loads yourself and contact a professional. They have the proper tools and techniques to safely remove the weight before gutters are damaged.

Snow and Ice Falling from Gutters

Packed snow and ice buildup eventually melts and slides off the gutters as the weather warms. This can create a hazardous situation, with heavy chunks crashing down onto walkways below.

Installing gutter guards helps minimize this risk by preventing excessive snow and ice accumulation. Attach pipe heating cables along problem areas to help melt and drain the snow load. Place caution signs around the area most prone to snow slides. Have snow cleared from gutters by a professional before dangerous overhangs can form.

Damaged Gutters from Icicles

damaged gutters from icicles
Icicles may look like winter decorations, but they can seriously damage your gutters.

Long, pointed icicles look scenic, but they can take a toll on your gutters. As icicles grow heavier, they can tear gutters or bend them out of shape once the freeze thaws.

Prevent long icicle formation by keeping gutters clear of debris that leads to pooling water. Regularly knock down large icicles so their weight doesn’t overwhelm gutters. Install heat cables along the roof’s edge and in problem gutter areas. This melts ice buildup and keeps icicles small and manageable. Use gutter guards to minimize water overflow that leads to large icicles.

Rust and Corrosion

Winter moisture and freeze/thaw cycles accelerate rust and corrosion of metal gutters. Once rust takes hold, it will continue eating away at gutters well into spring.

Apply a protective gutter sealant before winter to shield against corrosion. Choose a gutter guard material that does not accelerate rusting. Keep gutters clear of debris and water buildup that accelerates corrosion. Inspect gutters in early spring for any signs of new rust or holes and address them immediately.

Gutter Separation from Fascia 

With age, gutters can pull away from the underlying fascia board. Harsh winter weather exacerbates loosening and separation, allowing water intrusion that leads to rot and woodpecker damage.

Examine gutters for secure attachment before winter weather arrives. Look for leakage stains or areas pulling loose. Resecure loose gutters with long gutter screws and extra hangers as needed. Caulk any gaps that allow water seepage behind gutters. Monitor the fascia board below the gutters for signs of water damage.

Taking gutter maintenance steps before winter is your best defense against cold weather issues. Pay attention to potential problem areas and make any necessary repairs ahead of time. Keep gutters clean and reinforced throughout winter. Stay vigilant for any new issues that develop and address them promptly to avoid bigger, costlier problems down the road. With proper care, your gutters can weather whatever winter throws at them. When you need help to reinforce, improve, or repair your gutters, you can count on the professionals at Lednor Home Solutions to bring you the best solutions for your home. Schedule a free estimate.

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