Effects of Snow on Gutters and Downspouts

Snow in the lower mainland tends to bring everything to a standstill. But what is it doing to your gutters and downspouts? When the gutter system experiences winter weather, the real danger is when the snow begins to melt and then the temperatures drop again, causing the water to freeze.

Roof and Gutters

Snow hanging around on the roof and in the gutters for a short period of time doesn’t pose a real threat to your home. A healthy roof of a Vancouver home can handle the weight of a typical snowfall until it thaws. While icicles dangling from the gutters can be a bit alarming, attempting to remove them with an ice pick, chisel, shovel, or axe can do the roof and/or gutters more harm than letting them melt on their own.

The same goes for ice dams on the roof – if the ice isn’t moving in behind the shingles, potentially damaging them or the structure of the roof itself, then avoid trying to get rid of the ice with salt, chemical de-icers or chipping away at it.


Another adverse effect of snow on downpipes is ice forming around the outlets connecting the gutters to the downspouts. This occurs when the snow melts during the day as temperatures climb and then freezes later in the day or toward evening when it becomes colder. If the snow melts immediately without re-freezing or the ice melts without leaving debris behind that can become stuck inside the downpipe, then there’s no problem.

Inspect the Roofing System

After the snow has mostly melted and before it starts raining again, inspect the roofing system for any damage. Use binoculars to check the roof for cracked shingles, damaged or missing roofing tiles, loose flashings, and damaged vents.

Inspect the gutters, especially aluminum gutters, for dents. Inside the gutter trough, look for any clogs or debris buildup in the channel or around the outlets. Ensure fasteners haven’t worked loose or gutters sections have pulled away from the fascia.

Make sure the downspouts haven’t been dented and the brackets that hold the pipes in place are not loose or missing screws. To test for debris lodged inside the downspout tap a few inches below the top elbow and above the bottom elbow firmly enough to make a sound but not enough to dent it. “Ringing” (clear sound) means the downpipes are free of debris; “thunking” (choked sound) indicates a possible blockage.