Gutters are an important part of your home’s drainage system. If you have gutters, they will help prevent water from accumulating on your roof and causing leaks.
However, gutters can cause problems of their own at certain times of the year.
If you’ve ever had to climb up onto your roof and remove blockages of dead leaves and other debris from your guttering, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.
To prevent this kind of situation, many homeowners choose to install gutter guards. Unfortunately, this system is not free from complications, especially in winter.
If you’re using gutter guards in an area with a lot of snowfall, they can cause snow build-ups and ice dams, which may lead to damage to your roof and guttering.
So, does this mean gutter guards are inherently bad in winter? Not necessarily.
We will be outlining the potential issues with using gutter guards in winter and how to circumvent them in this short guide.
Which Gutter Guards are Bad in Winter?
Some gutter guards may increase your risk of developing ice dams on your roof or gutters, but there are gutter guards you can install that will actually prevent ice dams.
The kinds of gutter guards you definitely don’t want to use in winter if you get a lot of ice and snow are flat gutter guards and gutter guards with minimal inclines.
These guards will encourage snow and ice to accumulate instead of melting and dispersing quickly, and this is what leads to dams.
If you need to use gutter guards during the winter months, we recommend using gutter guards with holes that are large enough to let pieces of ice fall through into the gutter.
This way, the ice and snow won’t build up on top of the guttering and will instead melt and drain away.
Of course, if you live in an area that doesn’t experience much (or any) snowfall, this isn’t something you need to put much thought into.
The problem with gutter guards in winter is limited to regions where snow and ice are a common occurrence during this season.
Installing gutter guards in winter requires a bit of planning ahead. You’ll need to know when it’s going to start snowing before you begin installing these guards.
You can predict this by keeping track of the weather forecast, but it’s still not too late to install snow-friendly gutter guards after the first snowfall of the year – you’ll just need to be sure to exercise extra care if your roof is slippery due to snow and ice.
It might be best to hire a professional to conduct the installation in these cases.
Do Gutter Guards Prevent Ice Dams?
There is a common belief that gutter guards cause ice dams, but this isn’t always the case.
While certain poorly-designed gutter guards (flat ones, for example), may cause ice and snow to accumulate and ultimately block or cause damage to your guttering, other factors also contribute to this issue.
One leading cause of ice dams on gutters is actually poor ventilation in your attic.
Many people mistakenly think that choosing the right gutter guards will 100% prevent ice from building up, but this is usually not the case if you have a lot of snowfall in your area.
In addition to guttering with ice-friendly gutter guards, you will need to install radiant roof heating and maybe also a de-icing system.
Most of the time, snow melts fairly quickly if there is proper heating coming from a home’s attic space.
Therefore, if you have ice dams on your guttering, don’t be so quick to blame your gutter guards entirely. It’s possible that you need to put some work into ventilating and heating your attic.
How to Stop Ice Dams Forming on Gutter Guards
One of the easiest ways to stop ice from accumulating on top of your gutter guards or in your guttering is to install some heating cables directly inside the gutters.
This is helpful for a fairly straightforward reason: when ice falls onto your gutter guards, the heat from the heating cables in the gutter radiates upwards (remember, heat rises) and melts the ice quicker.
When combined with gutter guards that slope downwards, this method of preventing ice dams is very effective.
Sloping gutter guards allow the ice to fall off or into the gutter even if it doesn’t melt immediately, so you probably won’t end up with any significant accumulations.
It’s important to note that if you’re going to install heated cables in your guttering, you shouldn’t attempt the process yourself (unless, of course, you’re a qualified electrician).
It’s always best to call a professional who has had a lot of experience fitting heated cables for your own safety and the safety of your home.
Protecting Your Gutter Guards in Winter
If you want to ensure that your gutter guards are safe and functional throughout the winter, you will need to start the maintenance process in the fall.
The most basic form of autumn maintenance for gutter guards is sweeping any leaves off the top of the guards as well as removing leaves from the gutters themselves, if any have fallen through.
During the fall months, leaves are falling from trees and being blown all over the place by stronger winds, so you will have a higher risk of blockages in and on top of your gutters.
If this isn’t cleared out before winter, the snow and ice won’t be able to drain away as effectively, so even if you use sloped gutter guards, you might end up with ice dams.
You should also make sure that all the gutters and downspouts are clear of debris such as twigs, dirt, and mud.
Dirty rainwater can leave residue in your gutters, which may build up over time and make it more difficult for water, including that from melted snow and ice, to drain.
You can use a garden hose with a spray nozzle attachment to clean out the gutters on a regular basis, but especially during the few months leading up to winter.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Gutter Guards A Waste Of Money?
Gutter guards are not a waste of money unless you buy badly-constructed, flat gutter guards with small holes that make it difficult or impossible for debris, ice, and snow to disperse.
As long as you purchase gutter guards that are suitable for all seasons, including winter, and pair them with proper heating both from inside your attic and from heat cables in your gutters, your gutter guards will be worth the money, even in icy conditions.
Should I Remove Gutter Guards In The Winter?
If you get gutter guards with large holes that also slope downwards, and if you pay a professional to install the required heating systems, you won’t need to remove your gutter guards in the winter seasons.
However, if your gutter guards are flat or only have tiny holes for water to drain through, it’s best to remove your gutter guards before winter comes and replace them with guards that are more suitable for snow and ice.
If you don’t live in one of the colder climates that get a lot of snow and ice during the winter, then there’s no need to remove your gutter guards at all – just make sure to clean your guttering regularly with a hose or a roof rake to prevent buildups of debris and impeded water flow.
Do Gutter Guards Increase Home Value?
Things like clogged or faulty guttering can significantly decrease your home value because the guttering will need to be fixed before or after purchase.
For this reason, installing snow-friendly, sloping gutter guards with large holes can increase your home’s value.
Allowing snow to melt and drain properly will prevent the damage caused by ice dams, so you won’t have to deal with broken gutters and a leaking roof when trying to sell your home.
If you want to increase your home value even more, install a heat cable that runs through the entire gutter to speed up the ice melting process.
This will benefit any future owners of your home by preventing long-term damage from the weight of snow and ice and will mean it can be sold for a higher price.
If you live in an area where winters are particularly harsh, then you’ll definitely want to invest in a few preventative measures to keep your gutters functional and damage-free.
The best way to reduce issues with gutter guards during the winter is to choose sloping guards with larger holes and pair them with attic heating and ventilation as well as heat cables.
Make sure to check your gutters frequently throughout the year, and clean them out whenever necessary.
If you notice any problems, contact a professional who is familiar with cold-weather issues.