Ice Dams and Your Gutters

Alpine Gutters & Downspoutsice dams and your gutters Alpine Gutters & Downspouts Denver is the first place to call for valuable information on ice dams and your gutters. When the dead of winter rolls around, your gutter systems are at extreme risk if you don’t have this powerful knowledge to keep them in the best shape possible to withstand the havoc that old man winter can bring. Here are some do’s and don’ts of dealing with ice dams and your gutters.

What is an ice dam?

An ice dam is a clump of ice that forms at the edge of a roof during cold winter snaps. Ice dams will put an entire gutter system at risk of being damaged, not to mention possibly destroy the roof, inside your home, foundations, landscaping, paint, and even mildew and rot if the insulation gets and stays wet. Ice dams are severe, and if they break free, they will more than likely destroy the gutters, even fall on cars, shrubs or pets.

What causes these ice dams to form?

Ice dams form when the roofing over an attic warms up enough to melt the layer of snow on the roof. The water eventually makes its way down between the layer of snow and the shingles until it reaches the eaves, which stays cold naturally because it reaches beyond the side of the house. This is where the water freezes, eventually forming into a stubborn mound of sheer ice.

If snow and ice build up high enough in your gutter system, it will cause an ice dam. Depending on the angle of your roof pitch, the problem can worsen. If you are unfortunate to be dealing with ice dams and your gutters already, here are some of the steps you can take to deal with it.

  1. Remove the ice dam by breaking it free, but do NOT use an ax or sharp tool because you will more than likely damage your shingles. By tapping lightly with a blunt mallet, you will make more progress and cause less damage. Hiring someone to do this job is your best option, as there is a great risk for falls.
  2. Next step is to clear out your gutters and downspouts. This is not an easy job, and there may be some damage either to plastic or metal gutters and spouts along the way.
  3. Melt troughs through the ice dam with calcium chloride ice-melter, which is available at most hardware stores. Whatever you do, do not use rock salt! It will damage paint, metals, plants, and nearly anything it lands on. You can make a trough melter by using a tube of cloth, such as a leg of nylon stockings or a sock. Fill it with calcium chloride, tie off the top, and lay it vertically across the ice dam, this will slowly melt down through the ice dam, to help water free flow.

More Ways to Get Rid of Ice Dams

If you are one of those do it yourself kind of people, here are a few recommendations for you to try. Again, if you are uncertain what you are up against, dealing with ice dams and your gutters can be a nasty task, please call on the professional gutter experts to get the job done quickly, and safely.

  • Ice melting cables are an option, but they require installation, which may need a roofer or electrician. These are installed on the lower 2 feet of your roof and sometimes along gutters.
  • Add blown-in insulation to your roof and attic; this will help eliminate heat loss in your attic. This is a very inexpensive alternative and will save you bundles in heating costs in the long run.
  • Improve your attic ventilation by hiring a roofer to install a new ridge vent or soffit intake vents. It will all depend on the type of roof you have, so get an expert opinion.
  • Metal ice belt roof panels. These can be expensive, but worth it. However, you can also just use sections of metal panels in areas near your gutter system to cut down on cost.
  • Specialized ice melting roof systems are also available and somewhat high tech, but if you have the money to spend, it may be well worth it in places where snowfall is heavy, and ice dams are a frequent occurrence.
  • Ice melting pucks. These are similar to the sock or nylon which contains the calcium chloride, but these pucks can be strategically placed. Not a significant investment, as they seem to only work in the areas they are placed.

So, you’ve dealt with an existing ice dam. Now the key is to PREVENT having to deal with ice dams and your gutters. Here are some steps to take:

  1. Whenever you get a big dump of snow, use a snow rake to rid the burden of weight on your roof. Again, if you’re not good with getting on a ladder, or the weather is not great, don’t do the job yourself and possibly get injured. Call on the professionals.
  2. The other option is to replace your shingle roof with standing seam roof, or metal roofing. This may still dam up, but will help deter ice dams somewhat.
  3. Seal all points where warm air leaks from the living space into the spaces immediately below the roof sheathing.
  4. Properly insulate to prevent conduction and convection of heat escaping through the ceiling.
  5. Vent the space between the insulation and the roof, so any heat that leaks through is carried away from the source.

How will this all save you money?

If your gutter system is installed correctly, and you have taken the proper procedures for avoiding ice dams near your roofline, your heating costs will be significantly lower, your home more comfortable with the appropriate heat distribution, and we all know, saving money is a good thing.

Dealing with ice dams and your gutters come with living in a colder climate. Taking these steps will help to ensure that your home stays protected from the elements that can affect our area. Just be sure to get ahead of the game by calling Alpine Gutters & Downspouts for all inspections, maintenance and repairs of your gutter system. We’ll give you peace of mind that your home will be protected year-round.

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