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How Ice Can Damage Your Gutters

Posted by Kevin Leahy on December 03, 2018

Winters are tough on our homes, especially the roof and gutters. A really bad winter with an onslaught of ice and snow can do a lot of damage especially to older roofs and gutter systems. To prevent water damage to your home or worse a roof collapse this winter, make sure you protect your roof and gutters from ice that can cause a clogged gutter.

First, you need to be aware of how ice can damage your roof gutters. There are several ways.

Too Much Pressure on Gutters

When you end up with a lot of ice and snow on your roof and in your roof gutters, all the extra weight can cause damage to your gutters causing it to crack or crumble and even completely separate from your home.

Downspout Blockage

The downspout is where the rainwater runs out off into the ground so when this is blocked by ice, it can cause back up and damage in the whole gutter system. This is more likely to occur when there is a lot of snow on the ground.

Ice Buildup

During a bad winter storm, ice can buildup in your gutters preventing the flow of melted snow to your down spouts for proper drainage. The extra runoff can also cause long icicles to form on the lip of your gutters causing more obstruction to the proper function of your gutters and more prolonged moisture exposure to your home.

Ice Dams

Ice dams are chunks of ice that form along the side of the roof. While it stays cold, the icicles don’t really harm the roof in any way, but once the weather warms up a little, they will melt into pools of water on the roof that eventually seep under the shingles and into the walls and ceilings. First you will see damp spots and then paint will start to peel and the drywall will start to sag and rot.

This most commonly occurs when a part of your roof heats up to above freezing, but the edge of the roof is still below freezing. Often this occurs when you have a warm attic. The heat escapes from the ceiling of the attic and warms parts of the roof but if the edge of the roof is still frozen, ice will build up there when meltwater runs down and hits the cold spot creating an ice dam on the roof.

Ice dams can also occur inside whole house gutter systems when runoff from rain or snow enters your gutters, which are typically colder than your roof, and refreezes blocking proper drainage of the gutters.

The best way for preventing ice dams on the roof is to keep your attic and roof cold. The best way to do this is by following these tips.

  • Fill in potential leaks. Most homes experience heat loss from the attic and it comes from unblocked walls, gaps in drywall and cracks, especially around light fixtures. Luckily this is something you can fix on your own, but because it requires some climbing and some air leaks are difficult to reach, you might want to hire a professional. If you are going to do it yourself, you should wear a mask for the dust as well as a long-sleeved shirt and pants for protection from skin irritations from the insulation. An added bonus is that you will save energy and on heating and air conditioning bills.
  • Make sure you have enough attic insulation to protect against ice dams. According to the experts, building codes require about 12 to 14 inches of fiberglass or cellulose. Measure the level in your attic and if you have less than 8 inches and find yourself having ice dam problems a lot, then you should add more insulation.
  • You should also make sure you have roof and soffit vents to draw in the cold outdoor air and push out the warmer air in the attic to keep both the attic and roof cold. Experts recommend that the minimum ventilation area size should be at least about 1 square feet of vent per 300 square feet of ceiling area when half the vent area is low on the roof and half is high. This can get complicated and some roof types are more difficult to vent so it is a good idea to hire a professional to do it for you.

When a Cold Roof Is Not Enough

Other strategies that might help include using an aluminum snow rake to get the snow off your roof after a heavy snowfall. This only works for single story homes though. You can also consider running a special adhesive ice-and-water barrier from 3 to 6 ft. up on the roof. This is a major undertaking though and best done when you are re-roofing any way. Never use a snow rake while you are on a ladder.

Another option is to install heat cables on the roof edge in a zigzag pattern in the areas where you see ice dams form the most. You need to be careful though with the extra meltwater. It can refreeze in the gutters and along the roof edge. To be safe, put the heat cable inside the downspout so it doesn’t clog with ice.

When you do have water damage in your home and can’t rake the snow or ice off the roof, you should hire a roofing company to take care of it. They can use a streamer to steam the ice off. Don’t try to chip it off yourself, you will only damage the shingles.

The Conditions of Your Gutters Matter Too.

It is not just the ice you have to worry about though. A clogged gutter can increase your risk for ice damming and overflow when the gutters get filled with ice and snow. Luckily though, using TheSpoutOff system can help. TheSpoutOff are rain gutter outlets that can be easily added to a new gutter system and they are designed with larger openings which prevent leaves and debris from getting clogged up in the gutters. They also make it easier to check on your gutters because it comes with a removable downspout that allows you to inspect the system from the ground instead of having to climb a ladder.

Another great plus is that these outlets are easy to keep clean through the removable downspout that allows you to check on the outlets without having to climb a ladder. With TheSpoutOff, a fear of heights or balance concerns will no longer keep you from properly taking care of your home and it is a lot cheaper than hiring a professional cleaner to come regularly to clear out all the debris.

The SpoutOff can be retrofitted to your current gutter system or it can be added to a new one, depending upon your needs. The instructions are relatively easy to follow so it is something you can easily install yourself, but any local gutter company can do it for you as well. Never have a clogged gutter again.

For more information on preventing ice from damaging your gutters, contact The SpoutOff today.

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