Are Gutter Guards Bad In Winter: Will They Cause or Prevent Ice Dams?

gutter guards winter lg

The intended function of a gutter guard is to protect the gutters of a house from falling debris and leaves that cause clogs and prevent rainwater from flowing through the gutters. These guards are effective in autumn and summer when there are many falling leaves and debris, but are gutter guards bad in winter?

Gutter guards can be bad in winter, depending on how much snowfall occurs in your area and how low the temperatures get. Ice dams and snow buildup may cause damage to the gutters and long-term damage to the house. The best gutter guards for winter are sloped and allow snow and ice to melt quickly. 

Some of the problems with gutters and gutter guards in winter include:

  • Ice dams which can damage facia boards, soffiting, and roof decking
  • Snow buildup which causes prolonged moisture exposure to roof decking
  • Icicles caused by to flowing and refreezing of snow buildup on the roof

There are many varieties of gutter guards available on the market, and they all function well for preventing debris and leaves from blocking gutters, but some are better than others in the winter season. Are gutter guards bad in winter? Let’s find out what the pros say.

Get Ready For Fall Sale - LeafFilter Gutter Protection

Take a Vacation from Gutter Cleaning & Save 10% + $325

Get an Estimate Today
We earn a commission if you purchase at no additional cost to you.

Do Gutter Guards Cause Ice Dams?

Most contractors consider gutter guards to be a good investment, but alone they can be bad in winter because of ice and snow buildup on top of the gutters.

Most contractors recommend gutter guards for helping to prevent gutter clogs and blockages that may potentially cause damage to the gutter systems and the house. However, there are stories of gutter guards causing damage to the home in winter due to ice dams and snow buildup.

Gutter guards are safe in all seasons if the correct gutter guard is used and properly maintained, regularly cleaned, and cleared. Multiple gutter guards are available, and choosing the right kind of gutter guard for your house is essential. 

Gutter guards themselves aren’t the cause of ice dams and snow buildup. It’s often linked to the poor attic ventilation. In extremely cold regions, you will likely need to add radiant roof heating and a gutter deicing system to melt ice and snow on the roof, allowing the gutters to drain the roof runoff.

The reality is that the ice and snow melt shortly after it settle on the roof, and clearing out the gutter guards before the problem becomes too severe makes using gutter guards manageable.  

Gutter guards are safe in winter when properly installed and maintained.

Not having gutter guards is worse than having them, even in the winter. Without gutter guards, any leaves or other debris left in the gutters into the winter will block the gutters and increase the severity of the problem.

Any leaves or debris left in the gutters when the water or snow freezes within them will increase the weight of the ice in the gutters and prevent it from melting quickly, causing more problems than if a gutter guard protected the gutters.

Gutter guards are only inadequate in winter if they become clogged with excessive snow or if the design of the gutter guards encourages the buildup of snow and ice above the gutters.

Are all Gutter Guards Bad in Winter

Not all gutter guards are equal regarding winter gutter protection. The worst gutter guards in the winter are flat or with a very shallow incline and do not promote ice and snow melting.

Gutter guards can be bad in the winter due to the accumulation of ice and snow, but some gutter guards are worse than others regarding this issue.

The best gutter guards are those with large enough holes to allow chunks of ice and snow to fall into the gutter.

Gutter guards with large holes allow the accumulated material to slide off the roof or into the gutter. Gutter guards installed at a steeper angle let the material slide off the guard rather than collecting on top of it.

Gutter guards of this type are the best to use in areas that experience significant snowfalls or extended periods of sub-freezing temperatures.

Will Gutter Guards Prevent Ice Dams?

Gutter guards do not prevent ice dams. The truth is that all gutters and gutter guard systems will freeze if the temperatures drop low enough.

There is, unfortunately, no way to gutter or gutter guard on the market that is immune to this problem, but some varieties of gutters and gutter guards experience worse ice dams than others.

Even when leaf guard gutters do not prevent ice dams, gutter guards designed to allow ice and snow to melt quickly or build up less quickly experience fewer issues related to ice dams than others.

Ice dams occur in gutters and gutter guards when snow accumulates on the house’s roof, melts, and becomes trapped on the gutter guard or in the gutter. Ice dams occur in all gutter systems, but choosing the right gutter system and gutter guard helps limit the effects of ice damns and allows them to melt more quickly.

How to Prevent Ice Dams from Gutter Guards?

The most effective and straightforward way to prevent ice dams in gutters and gutter guards is to install heat cables in the gutters. Heat cables will supply a steady supply of heat in the gutters to keep the gutter system warm enough to prevent snow and ice from accumulating in the gutter system.

Ice dams are common in gutters and gutter guards, but there are ways to prevent this issue and decrease the impact.

Steep-sloping gutter guards help snow and water slide off the gutters or into the gutters, which also helps prevent ice dams. 

Heat cables installed by a qualified technician combined with steep sloping gutter guards are the perfect way to prevent ice dams in gutter systems.

How to Protect Your Gutters in Winter?

Protecting your gutters in winter begins in fall. Clean out your gutters through autumn to prevent the buildup of leaves. Keep surrounding trees trimmed to minimize the leaves that fall into the gutters. Install heat cables in the gutters, and apply deicing compounds to help melt ice in the gutters.

Maintaining gutters all year long is essential. Every season poses problems to gutters and gutter systems, but there are ways to protect your gutters in the coldest months of the year.

The best way to keep gutters well protected in the winter months is to ensure that your houses’ gutters are clear of leaves and debris and install gutter warmers to prevent ice dams. 

Installing gutter warmers and gutter guards at an angle, and clearing out the gutters before the coldest months, is the best way to protect your gutters in the winter.

Read more on the pros and cons of gutter guards.


Gutter guards are used to protecting gutter systems from becoming clogged with leaves and other falling debris. Gutter guards work well for this purpose but can cause a buildup of snow and ice that freezes over in the winter months.

Gutter guards are not bad in winter when reinforced with gutter warmers such as heat tape or heating cables, and if the gutter guards are installed at an angle to promote ice melting and allow snow to slide over them.

Use the proper gutter guards for your house, and install them correctly with snow in mind, and the gutter guards should not cause too much of a problem in the winter months.

Get Ready For Fall Sale - LeafFilter Gutter Protection

Take a Vacation from Gutter Cleaning & Save 10% + $325

Get an Estimate Today
We earn a commission if you purchase at no additional cost to you.

Hubert Miles | Licensed Home Inspector, CMI, CPI

Hubert Miles is a licensed home inspector (RBI# 2556) with more than two decades of experience in inspection and construction. Since 2008, he has been serving South Carolina through his company, Patriot Home Inspections LLC. As a Certified Master Inspector, Hubert is dedicated to providing his expertise in home inspections, repairs, maintenance, and DIY projects.