Winter is Actually a Good Time to Check Your Gutters

Skywalker Windows and Siding

Go With The Flow!

Gutters may not be particularly glamorous or sexy, and when they’re flowing properly you probably don’t give them a second thought. But when they aren’t going with the flow, problems can quickly ensue! Clogged or damaged gutters can eventually fill with water, which is enough to cause its own set of issues for your roof and for your home’s infrastructure.

 

The Science of Winter: Frozen Water Is Weird

Winter adds an even more interesting plot twist to the story. But first, a quick science lesson is in order:

Q: What’s the only common substance on Earth that expands when it goes from a liquid to a solid?

A: Water!

In case you missed the significance of that, consider that typically, the solid form of any substance is more dense than the liquid. Water is an unusual exception to that rule. When water freezes, the bond angles between water molecules actually increase, causing ice to be less dense. This is why ice floats in water, rather than sinking.

 

So, What’s the Impact of Ice on a Gutter?

Now, let’s connect the dots. When water begins to freeze in your gutters, the ice will expand in volume. This won’t necessarily cause any problems as long as the ice has “room to grow.” But if your gutters are clogged, the expanding ice can lead to a number of significant problems:

  • Downspout Blockage

Over the course of a long winter’s cold spell, more and more ice can collect in your downspouts. If the downspouts become completely clogged with ice, this can cause enough backup to do permanent damage to your gutter system.

  • Ice Dams

With clogged downspouts and gutters, ice slabs can form along the roofline. As these slabs melt, water can seep in under the roofline, which can cause damage to both your external roofing and its underlying sheathing.

  • Extra Weight on Your Gutters

Heavy ice can put undue strain on your gutters, which can eventually lead to ineffective gutter protection and even collapsed gutters.

  • Icicle Threats

Icicles are pretty, but heavy icicles hanging over your gutters can become deadly projectiles. The weight of those hanging icicles can also loosen your gutters from their anchors, leading to potential gutter compromise.

  • Damage to Fascia and Roof Decking

Ice that has built up in your gutters can then start to grow under the drip edge. This ice can get behind the metal and expand into your fascia and roof decking. Over time, this can rot out the wood.

  • Water Damage

Once winter is over and all that ice melts, the water then has to go somewhere. If the water isn’t flowing through your gutters properly, it can infiltrate your roof, your siding, and eventually even your building’s interior.

 

Thankfully, You Don’t Have to Let Ice Get the Best of You!

As you can see, all it takes is some blockage to lead to a gutter system breakdown. But you can avoid these worst-case scenarios by simply performing a little timely gutter maintenance and inspection. Here are some essential tips and things to look for:

  1. The single best thing you can do is to make sure your gutters and downspouts stay clear. If you’re comfortable on a ladder, you can take care of this yourself with some gloves and a garden trowel or ice scoop. Alternatively, you can elect to try and hose them out or blow them out, but you need to be careful not to damage or overly soak the low edge of your roofing in the process. Home improvement stores even make extensions and attachments that are designed to help you clean your gutters from ground level. One downside of this strategy is that you can’t really see how effective your gutter cleaning efforts are and what you may have missed inside your gutters.

 

  1. If you don’t have the ability (or willingness) to clean your gutters yourself, you have two options. You can either pay someone to do it for you a few times every year, or you can simply opt to install a gutter guard system so they won’t become clogged in the first place.

 

  1. Since snow and ice can accumulate on your roof – regardless of whether your gutters are clogged or not – there are a couple other things you should check for in the winter as well. Take a look at the seams where your gutters attach to each other, to the downspout, and to any other components. Seams are the potential “weak links” in any gutter system, and they are the points most susceptible to rusting and/or leaking. The weight of ice and snow can take a toll on these areas, so it’s a good idea to check them for any wear and tear.

 

  1. It’s also a good idea to inspect the gutter anchors (the points where your gutters are fastened to the house). Winter precipitation and accumulation has a way of working these anchors loose, so you want to catch any issues before your gutters start to sag or detach.

 

  1. Speaking of sagging, one more thing to check on is the pitch of your gutters. In order for gutters to drain properly, they must be mounted at the right pitch or angle. Gutters that sit too flat allow water to sit, freeze, and then build up in the winter. It’s important to address any improper slope issues you may find.

 

Need Some Help? Turn to Skywalker for the Best Gutter Solutions!

Skywalker Windows & Siding is a name you can trust. We actually got our start in roofing services (which we still provide!), so we really are the gutter experts across the NC Piedmont Triad, Triangle, Charlotte Metro, and Roanoke, VA areas. We’re happy to come out for a FREE inspection, and then we’ll sit down with you to discuss all your options, including everything from repair to replacement. We’re also happy to provide new seamless gutter and gutter guard installations, and we have all the needed tools, experience, and know-how to take care of your needs.

Plus, we do much more than just roofs and gutters; we also provide other valuable home improvement services including windows and siding installation and replacement, blown insulation services, deck and porch additions, and more! Reach out to us today, and give us the opportunity to show you the Skywalker difference!

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