The Importance of Cleaning Gutters – A Fall Reminder (Encore)

Posted by in Buying/Maintaining a Home, Roof, Winter Concerns | November 11, 2013

Gutters collect roof runoff and drain it into a downspout where it is discharged at grade away from the dwelling or into an underground storm sewer line.  When debris from trees or small objects from a child’s play equipment collect in the gutters, water flow becomes restricted and in severe cases prevented.  The restriction and/or prevention of water flow will probably result in the accumulation of roof runoff in the gutters and overflow.  Gutter overflow may infiltrate the dwelling at the  roof or the wall or it may accumulate on the grade behind a basement wall and infiltrate through the basement wall.

Clean and clear gutters are important not only in spring and summer when heavy rainfalls occur, but also in winter months.  During the winter months the restriction and/or prevention of water flow in the gutters increases the risk and size of ice dams.  That is, during the short periods of thawing in the winter months, the restriction and prevention of water flow in the gutters reduces the natural drainage of water and the clearing of the gutters from ice.  Gutters that are already filled with debris, especially wet debris have a head start for an ice dam.  The debris occupies the space that would normally be built-up with ice formed by draining roof runoff.  This causes the ice dam to form more quickly and in a prolonged cold spell for the ice dam to be larger, thus resulting in a higher risk for water infiltration into the dwelling.

Even downspout screens or strainers can restrict or prevent roof runoff from draining because they provide a surface for water and wet dirt to freeze over quickly. If they are not necessary to keep debris from the downspouts in the winter months, it may be better to temporarily remove them until early spring to allow less restricted flow in the gutter.

Ice dams may not be completely avoidable, but precautions taken before winter can help reduce the risk of their occurrence.

Enjoy the end of fall weather!