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Here’s What to do if Your Gutters or Downspouts Ice Up This Winter

While it may seem like a small problem, frozen gutters and downspouts could cause a lot of problems if they go ignored and untreated for too long.

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The winters in Washington, D.C., and Virginia can be a little extreme, which is why frozen gutters and downspouts can seem like an unavoidable (and normal) feature of the season. Those heavy icicles and blocked gutters can cause serious damage to your home both directly and indirectly, however, so you should take steps to address them. In fact, with the right preparation, you could avoid dealing with these issues altogether. All you need is a little expert help.

prevent clogged downspouts in winter

Frozen Gutters and Downspouts – Why You Should Worry 

While it might not seem likely, all those icicles can damage your gutters quite seriously. Though they’re only water, they can be quite heavy. If they get big enough, they could even pull your gutter away from the roof. On a less dramatic note, this ice blockage will ensure that any rainfall or water produced by thawing snow will have nowhere to go. As a result, you could see water backing up on your roof or overspilling and pooling by your foundation

This might not be an issue if it occurs irregularly or as an isolated incident, but when it happens every year, it could cause other issues. Gutters that break away from their anchoring, for example, could damage your roof and water pooling by your foundation is sure to increase the levels of hydrostatic pressure that your property has to cope with. 

The Dos and Don’ts of Frozen Gutters 

Once you have frozen gutters, there are only a few things you can do. While breaking away excessively long icicles can be done without much issue, experts recommend that you do not simply take a hammer or axe to the icicles and ice buildup. This is ineffective and could cause a lot more damage to your home. Secondly, don’t use salt or other chemicals on your roof and gutters. Defrosting mixes tend to have abrasive or corrosive elements that could damage your roof. 

Furthermore, runoff that contains these chemicals and blends will be toxic to your lawn and plants. It could even prevent your yard from blooming properly come spring. The only truly safe way thaw frozen gutters is with warm water or steam. This is a temporary solution, however, and only works if you remove debris so that there is no more standing water or organic matter to freeze once the cold sets back in. All in all, the best medicine is prevention. 

How to Prevent Frozen Gutters and Downspouts 

First and foremost, keeping your gutters clear and clean on the run-up to winter will seriously reduce the likelihood that your gutters will be blocked solid. You should also flush your system before winter to ensure there is no debris in your downspout as this will freeze, cause blockages, and increase the weight on your gutters. You might also want to consider having underground downspouts installed by a waterproofing professional. 

Another option is to invest in heating elements. This is a simple and effective undertaking that will prevent your gutters from freezing if in consistent use. It involves installing a heating panel system and running heating elements along the length of your gutters and downspouts. This is not hugely costly, but the price does depend on the size of your home. It is important to keep in mind, however, that it will also save you money on repairs in the future. 

Setting up a regular maintenance schedule for your yard, roof, and gutters will ensure that your gutters are robust and ready to deal with the harsh D.C. winter. Whether you are looking to repair the damage caused by frozen gutters and downspouts or you want to investigate preventative measures, the JES Foundation Repair team is here to make sure that you get the best possible results. When you schedule a free inspection appointment, our team can check your basement and foundation for warning signs as well as identifying the best possible option for keeping your gutters functional through winter.