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Practical Winter Roof Maintenance in 3 Steps

By Annie Crawford

December 11, 2020

House covered with snow

Ready for winter? Along with family and festivities, winter roof maintenance can help ensure a safe, memorable season. Your roof works hard to protect your home from snow, rain, and storms. Taking time for simple winter roof maintenance can help prevent leaks and roof damage before they occur.

Whether your aim is to save money by avoiding bigger roofing problems down the line or you simply want to spend time thinking about the holidays—knowing you're protected by your roof while you celebrate—taking care of your roof in the winter leaves you free to enjoy a cozy home through the cold months and beyond.

1. Clear Out the Gutters

Clean gutters help prevent ice damming, leaks, and gutter damage that can result from winter weather. Debris in gutters obstructs proper drainage of rain, hail, and snow. As a result, ice dams can form, forming dangerous icicles and damaging the shingles, roof, and gutters.

Gutter cleaning can be a DIY project if you're able to safely access gutters from a ladder. Don't clean from the roof, as this may cause shingle damage. If you see any chance of personal injury or roof damage, always call for professional help.

Follow these helpful tips for getting gutters winter-ready:

  • Wear gloves and use a hand trowel or scoop to remove all unwanted material. Dump debris into a bucket that is safely attached to your ladder.
  • Be on the lookout for visible signs of roof damage. Call your roofing contractor for needed repairs as soon as possible.
  • Rinse gutters with water after cleaning to flush out smaller particles as long as no ice will form as a result.
  • Clean gutters twice a year, per the National Center for Healthy Housing.
  • Tree-heavy houses may require additional cleanings to remove excess needles or leaves. Consider hiring a tree trimmer to cut back limbs that might fall during a storm and damage your roof.

2. Handle Snow

Preventive inspections, proper ventilation, and professional help are three great tools for handling snow. Your roof can withstand snow—as long as it's been prepared correctly.

Start with prevention. An annual roof inspection helps identify potential leak or damage sites so that you can make repairs before storms hit.

Balanced attic ventilation is critical to help prevent ice dams. Proper ventilation allows cool air to enter the attic and hot air, which can melt the snow closest to your roof to escape. Melting snow can run to your lower roof and gutters and then freeze at night, forming ice dams that could cause expensive roof damage. Talk to a roofing professional about your ventilation needs.

It may also be best to bring in a snow removal professional to clear heavy snow that can lead to structural damage. For older roofs or homes, interior signs that heavy snow or ice is putting undue burden on your roof may include visible cracks or new bending in attic rafters, or drywall or plaster cracks in ceilings and walls. In these cases, attempting to remove snow from your roof during winter could actually damage your roof or cause serious injury.

3. Hang Lights Without Damage

Holiday lights bring joy—and, as a bonus, they won't cause roof damage when you use simple, roof-friendly hanging strategies. Avoid putting yourself at risk and or puncturing your roof or eaves with these tips:

  • Prepare lights: Untangle holiday lights before attempting to hang them, and test them all to make sure they work. This will help keep you safe and make the work smoother.
  • Be ladder safe: Can you safely work along your roofline with a ladder, especially during winter weather? If not, hire professional help to hang the lights. If it's safe to do so, recruit a friend or family member to assist you. An extra set of steady hands to hold your ladder and feed you lights can help prevent problems.
  • Be electricity safe: Are your outdoor power outlets able to safely accommodate your decoration's electrical needs? If you're unsure, seek professional guidance. Also be sure to keep electrical cords clear from power lines and other fire hazards.
  • Hang safely: Use light clips hooked or clipped to gutters or eaves. Do not nail or staple or puncture your shingles or eaves in any way—these minuscule holes can let in moisture, and when combined with a cycle of freeze and thaw, they may lead to more serious trouble.
  • Remove lights carefully: When decoration time is over, remove the light clips with the same care you used to hang them. Pulling them down from ground level can lead to gutter, eave, and even shingle damage

Here's to a happy, healthy winter season! If you have questions, reach out to your local GAF-Factory Certified Contractor* to help you inspect and maintain your roof, so you can protect your home for years to come.


*Contractors enrolled in GAF certification programs are not employees or agents of GAF, and GAF does not control or otherwise supervise these independent businesses. Contractors may receive benefits, such as loyalty rewards points and discounts on marketing tools from GAF for participating in the program and offering GAF enhanced warranties, which require the use of a minimum amount of GAF products.

About the Author

Annie Crawford is a freelance writer in Oakland, CA, covering travel, style, and home improvement. Find more of her work at annielcrawford.com.

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