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Prevent Ice Dams in Gutters

Aug 31, 2012

The wind is howling, the snow is blowing, and it’s cold. The last thing you want to be doing in the dead of winter is climbing a ladder to clear out the gutters because you’ve got ice dams.

Ice dams are a common occurrence in colder climates. They happen when melting snow re-freezes at the edge of a roof, creating ice formations that hang down from the eave trough. Ice dams can cause damage to your home and are potentially dangerous for anyone walking underneath. The sheer weight of these large icicles can cause gutters to break, peel paint from the exterior of a home, and can damage shingles. Not to mention that having one fall on your head while you are cleaning the snow off of your car can ruin your day!

The best way to stop ice dams from forming is through annual preventative maintenance. Here are some tips to help prevent this problem from occurring:

Tips to Prevent Ice Dams:

  • Clean your gutters: This is the first and easiest step to prevent water from freezing in your gutters. By clearing out leaves and other debris at least once a year, you can help make sure that winter run-off will not get clogged and re-freeze if the temperature drops.
  • Insulate your attic: The chief causes for ice dams are poorly insulated attics and roofs. If warm air is escaping from your home through the ceiling, and into the attic, the temperature on your roof can exceed that of the outdoor air temperature. This will cause the snow to melt and trickle down the slope of the roof. When it comes to a colder spot, usually right around the gutter, it will freeze. As more water seeps down it will freeze on top of the ice that has already accumulated. This is an ice dam.
  • Check your attic’s ventilation system: We all know that warm air rises. If you do have warm air in your attic you must give it somewhere to go. A proper attic ventilation system will allow warm air to escape, which is better than having it trapped and raising the temperature of your roof.

Gutters and eave troughs are designed to channel water from the roof to an appropriate place on the property to avoid having water pouring off the house in all directions during a rainstorm. During a normal thaw in the weather, well-cleaned gutters will easily handle the run-off as the snow melts at a natural rate. It is the fluctuating temperature between the roof and the gutter area that will cause you problems.

If you are having repeated problems with ice dams during the winter, contact a certified RESNET Home Energy Professional to help you locate the source of the problem and advise you on the best solution to keep your gutters free from winter dams.