Fixing Ice Dam Damage to Your Gutters

Fixing Ice Dam Damage to Your GuttersAlpine Gutters & Downspouts wants you to know all about fixing ice dam damage to your gutters. Of course, if you can prevent these pesky occurrences, your system and home will be all the happier for it. An ice dam is a mound of ice that forms at the edge of the roof and can damage both your roof and the inside of your home. It also puts your gutters and downspouts at a high risk of being destroyed or in need of replacement.

The primary cause of ice damming is very simple: too much heat in the attic! If the attic’s temperature is above freezing and snow is on the roof, the snow will melt, and water will eventually fall into the gutter. And since the gutter is not located above the house, where heat can reach it, the water refreezes, making ice, causing ice dams in the gutter and an abundance of icicles hanging from your eaves. When your roof begins to leak, the ice in the gutters gets thicker, and it will then stop the water as it comes down the roof, making an ice dam. The water coming down the roof builds up over time and does not refreeze because of the warmth generated in the house and the attic. The water is then pushed up under the shingles and into the house, causing more issues.

Here are some DIY ideas for fixing ice dam damage to your gutters:

  1. Remove the ice dam by smashing it up into smaller chunks. Do NOT use an ax, as you will most likely destroy your roof. Instead, tap lightly with a blunt rubber mallet. This is dangerous work, and it will take a lot of skill not to destroy your shingles or tiles, so do be careful if you opt for this route.
  2. Clean out gutters and downspouts. Remember you will be on a tall ladder and it can be an easy way to harm either plastic or metal gutters and spouts if not done carefully.
  3. Melt troughs through the ice dam with calcium chloride ice melter. Do NOT use salt! The chloride will slowly melt its way down through the dam, clearing a path for the underlying water to flow freely.
  4. Get rid of any buildup of snow implementing the use of a roof rake. These handy tools are easy to use and do a great job!

Of course, the best way to rid your home of ice dams is to try to prevent them in the first place. Try these suggestions out:

  1. KEEP ATTIC AND ROOF COLD: In an average home, approximately one-third of the heat loss is through the ceiling and into the attic space. And most of that loss comes from air leaks caused by unblocked walls, drywall gaps, and cracks around light fixtures, plumbing pipes, chimneys, hatches, crawl spaces, and other ceiling holes. Air leaks can be a real issue. You will have to climb into your attic, pull back insulation, and plug the holes using foam, caulk or other methods. Low roof angles are also a problem, and they can make some air leaks challenging to reach. Be sure to wear protective clothing if you are attempting this yourself.
  1. MEASURE INSULATION IN ATTIC: Building codes require about 12 to 14 inches of fiberglass or cellulose materials, and you will need to add more if you have less than 8 in. or have had ice dam problems in the past. These materials are usually better than hand-placed batts because they fill in more tightly around rafters, joists, and other obstructions, which means fewer gaps for you. It’s usually worth hiring a professional for this job, as the work can be irritating to skin and eyes.
  1. ROOF AND SOFFIT VENT ADDITIONS: Attic ventilation pulls in colder outside air and flushes out warmer attic air, reducing the temperature in the attic and roof in the process. The minimum ventilation area should be about 1 sq. ft. of vent, when half the vent area is low on the roof, and half is high. It can be a complicated addition, so be sure to get professional help if you are attempting this addition.
  1. ADHESIVE: Run special adhesive ice-and-water barrier from 3 to 6 ft. up the roof from the edge the next time you are thinking about reroofing. Ice and water barrier is a type of self-sealing underlayment that adheres to the roof decking and will allow it to be waterproof. You would then shingle over the top of the adhesive.
  1. HEAT CABLES: When all else fails, this is a go-to cure for ice dams that just won’t disappear. Heat cables are high-resistance wires, mounted on a roof edge, in a zigzag pattern. Plug into an outdoor GFCI receptacle. These cables are ideal in spots where ice dams regularly occur and can’t be stopped any other way. You’ll need to run the heat cable inside of a downspout as well, so the downspout doesn’t clog with ice either.

So, what will this end up costing me? Well, you can expect between $25 to $150 and hour, depending on your area, but in the meantime, here are a few suggestions to consider when looking:

  • Always seek quotes from several contractors to compare prices, but never choose just based on price alone. The cheapest company is rarely the best, as we can all probably relate to that at some point in our lives.
  • Do some background research on the different companies you are considering using. Check how long they have been in business? What experience do they have with ice dam removal? Do they have good ratings with the Better Business Bureau? Are you comfortable with them?
  • Always ask for references. Be sure to check that they are legitimate.
  • Make sure that the company you hire has up to date liability insurance. Ice dam removal work is quite dangerous. If the company is not insured, you may be held liable for any accidents that occur on your property. Protect yourself.
  • Always ask for a detailed explanation of the fees upfront. Do they charge by the hour? By the job? Is there a service fee just to come to your property? Does the service include removal of snow and ice from driveways and other areas?

These are just a few things to consider when looking for the right company, but it is always best to go with your gut instinct and intuition. You will know the right contractor when you see them.

At Alpine Gutters & Downspouts we understand how winter wreaks havoc on our gutter systems and roofs, so leave it to the professionals to get the job done the right way, the safest way, and the most efficient way, which will save you a lot of money and effort in the long run. Fixing ice dam damage to your gutters is a serious issue that requires a team with know-how and expertise, and we have just the solution to the problem. We look forward to hearing from you and fixing your ice dam issues promptly.

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