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Why Clean Your Gutters Before Winter & How To Get It Done

Why Clean Your Gutters Before Winter & How To Get It Done

Not all seasonal chores are created equal. Why mow your lawn all summer? So your home looks tidy and attractive. Why clean gutters before winter? So your roof does not leak! 

Why Clean Gutters At All?

Your home’s gutters are the lowest part of your roof system. Yes, gutters are part of a complete roof system, since they move the water running off your roof out into your yard. This has several benefits:

  • Dry foundations keep your house stable and intact
  • Landscaping is not eroded by pelting sheets of water falling straight off the roof
  • Your soil near your house stays relatively dry
  • Flowers, shrubs, and plants do not get beaten down

When gutters fill with leaves, twigs, and organic debris, they cannot hold rainwater. The water backs up instead of flowing through downspouts and away from your home. Full, clogged gutters invite their own host of problems:

  • Gutters can pull away from their fasteners
  • Clogged gutters invite insect and animal pests to build nests in the debris
  • Gutters can overflow, saturating and rotting the fascia boards behind them
  • Rotted fascia boards cause roof leaks

Worst of all, gutters clogged in fall lead to defective gutters making ice dams worse in winter. 

How Ice Dams Form 

Ice dams form through freeze and thaw cycles. When the roof of your Massachusetts home has highly varying surface temperatures—possibly from a poorly insulated attic, weak air circulation in the attic space, or heat escaping from your living space—your home can get many winter woes:

  • Ice dams
  • Roof leaks
  • Cold spots in your home
  • Overworked HVAC equipment
  • Higher humidity in the home

Ice dams form because areas of your roof near the ridge line are above freezing, while roof areas down near the roof edge and gutters are below freezing. 

The warmer, top portion of your roof melts the snow. The meltwater runs down toward the bottom of the roof, right into colder temperatures. The meltwater freezes. As more water flows, ice dams form and grow progressively larger. 

Gutters and Ice Dams

Some unscrupulous gutter installation services will try to convince you that gutters themselves cause ice dams. Gutters do not cause ice dams. Gutters are below your roof line, so they cannot possibly cause ice to form high up on your roof. Water flows downhill. Defective or clogged gutters make ice dams worse:

  • If gutters are clogged and fill with ice and snow, any meltwater from your roof cannot drain properly
  • During freeze-and-thaw cycles, meltwater does not flow into gutters but runs up and over the ice dams and clogged gutters, forming enormous icicles at your roof’s edge
  • Gutters heavy with solid ice and icicles can rip away from your home’s fascia boards
  • Destroyed fascia boards expose the ends of your roof’s rafters and leave your attic exposed to the elements
  • Wind, snow, and ice can build up inside your attic at the roof edge
  • Saturated insulation, rotted rafters, waterlogged joists, and roof leaks will follow

Clean Those Gutters!

As fall gives way to winter, most homeowners are preparing to snuggle down and endure low temperatures and harsh weather. But before you cocoon, make certain your gutters are clean, clear, and solidly attached to your Norwood-area home. 

When we say “make certain your gutters are clean,” you have two options:

  1. Doing it yourself, which we do not strongly recommend, especially on homes two stories tall or taller
  2. Hiring a gutter cleaning service

Even with one-story homes, we do not recommend ladder work if you feel at all hesitant or have any underlying issues preventing you from safely working on ladders. A gutter cleaning service can save you worry, risk, and money by helping to minimize ice dams. 

Another excellent way to stave off clogged gutters is by having gutter guards professionally installed. These keep gutters clear of twigs, leaves, and organic debris so only rain and melting snow run through your gutters. 

Even in low temperatures, the sun’s warming rays can melt some snow off your roof and into your gutters. 

Once you have gutter guards or gutter shutters installed, you can forget about annual gutter cleaning before winter weather. 

(Psst: Check Out the Roof, Too!)

You may have overlooked some of the reasons behind ice dams, but your roof and attic play huge roles in both forming and preventing ice dams. Keeping your gutters clean is part of your plan, but also consider an annual roof inspection in fall to get your roof ready. 

A good roofer can inspect your attic for insufficient insulation, poor ventilation, and problems with your sheathing. All of these ills contribute to uneven roof temperatures that lead to ice dams. 

Please contact us today at O’LYN Roofing, headquartered in Norwood, Massachusetts. We know roofing, but we also know—from over 40 years of service—what winters in the Northeast can do to your home’s roof.