Winter Gutter Cleaning: Ice Dams Prevention

Winters can be difficult for home maintenance as the harsh weather calls for additional cleaning protocols. A clogged gutter in snowy weather is not uncommon. However, ignoring it and causing further damage to your home can be worrisome. Gutter cleaning needs your attention. The best way to keep your gutter and roof in the best shape is to keep a home maintenance checklist.

Gutters protect the homes by collecting and draining water which prevents damage to the property. Too much exposure to water can actually lead to leaking or rotting. So, gutter cleaning to keep them functional is essential for successful maintenance. Therefore, when fall arrives, it is time to prepare for the rainy, snowy winter months. People might think that gutter maintenance becomes less important in the snowy season but the truth is the opposite! Sometimes, it can be surprising to see the damage caused by the snow without proper winter gutter maintenance.

As a result, gutter cleaning and repair should be among your top priorities. To help keep your gutters in the best condition possible, Chicago experts have compiled a comprehensive guide for gutter cleaning.

Gutter Types by Style

Gutter maintenance is an essential part of home maintenance. Information about the gutter materials, shape or size should be well understood. Importantly, there are three gutter styles;

1. Half-round gutters

Half-round gutters look like round tubes cut in between. They are cheaper than other styles but are least effective. As a result, they hold half the water a K- style gutter can hold. However, historic homes still use half-round gutters.

2. K-style gutters

Certainly, these have square bottoms while one side flares out. Their size is 5-8 inches wide. They look much like crown molding from the outside. K-style gutters are a better choice for homes because they hold more water than half-round gutters.

3. Fascia-style/wide-bottom gutter

These styles have a flat bottom, but having the outside edge straight. It looks like a flat fascia behind them. In fact, with a flat outer surface, these gutters can be made narrower, so they stand out less. Also, these are more common in winters.

Ice dams can be caused by improper attic ventilation and insulation.

Gutters Types by construction

1. Sectional gutters

Mostly, householders are familiar with sectional gutters. They are shipped in short lengths and snapped together during installation. Consequently, each point where two gutter lengths meet is a weak point that will leak in time. Sectional gutters are, however, faster and simpler to install.

2. Seamless gutters

Seamless gutters as the name suggest do not contain any seams. They are of the exact size required by the home. Cornered pieces may be soldered or screwed together. So, there is no weak spot for a leak. Therefore, seamless gutters are more expensive. They are difficult to install and are better in cold areas. As a result, leaking seams can freeze over and push the whole gutter apart.

gutter cleaning

Components of a Gutter System

A gutter system is composed of different parts which are explained as;

End caps

The end caps are flat caps that stop water from flowing out of the gutters.

Gutter hangers

The gutter hangers as the name suggest hold the gutter up to the wall. They are also called fascia brackets which provide a platform for the gutter to rest on.


A downspout is also known as drainpipe that allows water to drain out of the gutter. Half-round gutters use round downspouts, while K-style gutters use square downspouts. 

Downspout bracket

This bracket consists of simple aluminum or metal brackets that are used to hold the drainpipe securely. They can be decorative.


At the end of the downspout is a short section of pipe that bends like an elbow. This component of the system directs water away from the base of the home.

Downspout extension

Downspout extension is used to carry water further away from the home. It also avoids troublesome slopes.

Downspout diverter

It is a fan-shaped piece of plastic, concrete or metal that spreads out the water. It prevents damage caused due to heavy rains.

Gutter guards

These are the screens that cover the gutter opening to prevent leaves and debris from falling in. Gutter guards come in a variety of shapes or styles.

The Cause of Ice Buildup on Gutters

Slow running or clogged gutters cause ice buildup in them. If the gutters are draining slowly, they are more likely to clog. As a result, the accumulating water will freeze as soon as the temperature drops below the freezing point.

Water expands on freezing, so it creates cracks on the seams of sectional gutters. The excessive weight of the ice and snow causes the gutter system to collapse. Even a slight change in the slope of the gutter cause more drainage problems. Also, sagging or iced cover gutters harms the property value.

Moreover, most ice dams are caused by improper attic ventilation and insulation. So, first, look for the cause of the problem. To sum it up, poorly draining gutters just aggravate the issue. Schedule a gutter inspection today.

Prevention of Ice Gutters

Besides, ice cover gutters are the only cause of ice dams. The best option to prevent them is proper attic ventilation. The other few things that can prevent ice dams are;

  • Installing ice and water protector to minimize damage
  • Proper cleaning of gutters regularly
  • Ensure the gutters are properly sloped
  • Install roof heating cables

Above all, gutters should be clean twice yearly. Once in the spring and one in the late fall. 

gutter cleaning

Step by Step Gutter Cleaning

Step 1: Remove Leaves and Debris

A ladder, gloves and a bucket is needed to collect the debris. You can use an extendable gutter cleaner or a leaf blower with a gutter cleaning attachment. A plastic spatula or scoops is used to clean the gutter. To clean a stuck clog, contact an expert to avoid the breakage of the gutters. 

Step 2: Clean Mold and Algae

Mold develops in the wet areas of the clogged gutters. Mold wear away the protective coating on the gutters. Algae restrict water flow. Usually, a bleach solution and a sponge are used to scrub out any visible mold and algae.

Step 3: Remove Rust

A rust-removing cleaner or a scouring pad is necessary to remove any rust. Rust is not just an aesthetic issue but it also weakens the gutters. It is better to choose a less corrosive gutter material like aluminum or copper.

Step 4: Check Performance and Leaks

Make sure that the water runs freely after all the cleaning procedures. Check the entire gutter system. Especially, pay attention to the seams on the sectional gutters. Seal the small leaks properly. Mark the leaky spots with high visibility tape. Replace the gutter system if there are a handful of leaks.

Step 5: Install Gutter Heat Roofing Cables

To remove ice from the gutters, heat tape or an electric heating cable should be installed. The cable produces a lot of heat which melts out the snow. Make sure they are installed correctly to prevent damage.

Final Word

Ice dams in gutters are not uncommon. While their maintenance may seem tedious, leaving them to cause further damage to your home is the real problem. Learning how to take better care of the gutters will result in better protection of the roof, walls, and landscape of the overall house. We have published multiple blogs on gutter cleaning, maintenance, and overall roof maintenance as this part of your home cannot be ignored. Feel free to contact the professionals at King Builders for the best gutter cleaning Chicago has to offer to solve your gutter problems before it gets too late.

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