Cleaning Gutters to Aid in Prevention of Ice Dams

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One of the easier to ignore home tasks is gutter cleaning. If you do not see it, you can pretend it isn't there, right? While this is true, pretending there is not a problem will not make that problem go away, and cluttered, clogged gutters are a problem.

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The purpose of a gutter is to trap and redirect the flow of water off of your roof. If water is allowed to flow freely off of your roof without a gutter to direct it, you wind up with mud and erosion issues along every low-hanging edge of your house. Through the installation of gutters, you can force water to flow where you wish it to go by using spouts that serve to empty your gutter water in strategic places where it will rush away from your home, instead of towards and possibly inside of it.

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Gutter maintenance is important year round if you are to keep your gutters working as they should. Fall is a particularly tough time of year for gutters as leaf litter from falling trees tends to accumulate in the gutters. This leaf litter can pack in tightly and stop the flow of water. While a situation like this is bad enough in warm weather, it is much worse in winter. If water is not allowed to flow through your gutters and out of the spouts, when freezing temperatures are upon us water that is trapped in your gutters will freeze. This ultimately creates an ice dam, which forms when water from melting snow runs down the roof and begins to freeze upon reaching cooler parts of the roof, such as the gutters and eaves. If you gutters are already full of ice, that will further enable the formation of an ice dam.

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It is not just gutters that factor in to the cause of ice dams, however. A lot of the reason behind ice dams is heat escaping from the home itself and into the attic, where it causes snow on the roof to melt. When this occurs, water moves towards the gutters, which will ideally be clean of debris and ready to carry that water away. However, if your gutters are already frozen, a backup of ice is inevitable and can result in serious damage to your home, including buckled shingles as ice forms between them as well as water in your soffits and other forms of structural damage, all of which can also result in mold growth. In addition to these problems, bearing the burden of ice dams can pull your gutters apart from your home, resulting in a need for replacement gutters sooner than you may have anticipated.

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Ice dams are an unfortunate part of winter and clean gutters alone may not prevent them from forming, but clean gutters are a good start. If your gutters are free of debris, you lessen the chances of water freezing in them, and if an ice dam does form, melting water will be able to pass through the gutters more quickly if there is no leaf litter in the way. It is too late in the year for many of us to tackle gutter cleaning tasks, but that does not mean you cannot plan in advance for next year, so put a date on the calendar now to ensure you will have free and clear gutters ready before next winter arrives.

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