Winter can be a beautiful and magical season for many, with twinkling lights around the neighbourhood, warm fires burning, and falling snowflakes that create a beautiful winter wonderland.
Ask any homeowner though, and that magic quickly fades when those snowflakes begin piling up on your roof and gutters, causing dreaded ice dams.
Ice dams can cause significant damage to your home, resulting in roof leaks and water damage, as well as the potential tearing off of shingles and gutters, ultimately leading to costly repairs.
Fortunately, if you’ve been wondering how to prevent ice dams in gutters and on the roof of your home, there are a few steps you can take to preserve the life of your roof, gutters, and repairs budget!
How To Prevent Ice Dams in Gutters
The first step to preventing ice dams in gutters is to understand what causes them in the first place.
Ice dams typically form when heat escapes from the attic of your home, melting the layer of snow directly contacting the roof. This melted snow will then trickle down the roof until it reaches the colder edges, where it will refreeze.
As this process repeats, melted snow will begin to accumulate on the colder edges of the roof and on top of the existing ice layer, leading to large icicles and ice dams forming.
The build-up of ice then prevents melted snow from draining off the roof and instead will back up under the shingles causing a plethora of problems such as:
- Damaged shingles
- Water damage to the roof/leaks
- Wet insulation that loses its R-value
- Mold growth
- If ice dams get heavy enough, they can fall and take your gutter and parts of the roof with them
Ensure You Have A Properly Insulated & Ventilated Attic
The number one prevention method for ice dams is a properly insulated and ventilated attic.
When there is insufficient insulation in the attic, heat from the rooms below can escape through the roof, causing snow to melt and refreeze which in turn creates ice dams. On the other hand, sufficient insulation in the attic will help keep heat inside your home and away from your roof.
Additionally, proper ventilation in the attic will help regulate both the temperature and humidity levels. This is achieved by roof and/or soffit vents drawing in the cold air from outside and flushing out the warmer, humid air that has accumulated in the attic.
Keep Gutters Warm & Clear Of Debris
Keeping your gutters warm can also help prevent ice dams from forming. You can accomplish this in a few ways, the most popular of which is the use of heat cables.
Heat cables are a type of electric heating element designed to be installed along the length of your roof’s edge in a zigzag pattern and through a downspout. They provide a constant source of heat that will help prevent ice from forming and allow snow melt to travel through the gutters to the ground.
This is where debris-free gutters and downspouts come into play. Leaves, twigs, needles, or other debris that builds up in your gutters can block water from flowing freely, resulting in ice forming.
Cleaning out all debris before winter begins, and installing heat cables can help prevent ice dams in gutters.
Rake Snow Off Your Roof
A snow roof rake allows you to clear the snow off of your roof while you are safely on the ground.
By removing snow after a heavy snowfall, there is no opportunity for it to melt and refreeze, effectively preventing ice dams from forming.
Unfortunately, this is not a suitable prevention method for every homeowner. Multi-story homes present a challenge in that it’s often not feasible to rake snow off large, multi-story houses.
Will Gutter Guards Prevent Ice Dams?
Not exactly… Gutter guards don’t prevent ice dams, but they also don’t contribute to ice dams forming in the first place.
As you now know, ice dams are caused by the snow that melts on your roof and refreezes due to warm air escaping from your attic.
Since gutter guards keep debris outside of the eavestrough, this melted snow can drain freely. However, not all gutter guards are created equally and some are better suited to withstand the added weight of ice and snow.
Some gutter guards are installed inside the gutter, such as foam inserts. The vast majority though are installed on top of the eavestrough using aluminum products with perforated holes.
At Gutter Dunn, we stand by the Alu-rex T-Rex Continuous Hanger to protect your gutters from the harshness of Canadian winters.
Unlike other traditional gutter guard solutions that are attached to the fascia board using nails or spaced hangers every 12” to 18”, the Continuous Hanger is attached to the fascia along the entire length of your house using galvanized screws with self-sealing rubber gaskets.
This system makes your eavestrough incredibly strong and durable, giving it the ability to hold the added weight of snow and ice, while keeping said snow and ice on the outside of the gutter, in addition to leaves and debris. The self-sealing screws also reduce the risk of water infiltration into the fascia!
In summary, the sheer strength of the T-Rex Continuous Hanger will support the added weight of ice and snow build-up, prevent the build-up from happening inside the gutter, and keep the gutter clear of debris. Meaning that all water will be able to flow freely during the next thaw cycle.
But remember, even though gutter guards like Alu-rex can withstand the harshness of winter, they are not a preventative measure. Before winter begins, ensure your attic provides sufficient insulation from the cold and that there is good ventilation. Your roof, eavestrough, and wallet will appreciate it!
How To Get Rid Of Ice Dams In Gutters
By now you are well aware that prevention is key, however despite our best efforts ice dams can sometimes form regardless. If you notice that ice dams have formed in your gutters, it’s important to remove them as quickly as possible.
There are a few ways you could approach this, in some cases raking the roof of excess snow can help. Some may say to chip at the ice, though do this at your own risk, as chipping at ice dams can cause damage to your roof or eavestrough. Another possibility is to use a chemical de-icer.
However, in most cases, and especially severe cases of ice build-up, it’s best to leave it to the professionals that specialize in removing ice dams safely.
Ice dams in your gutters and on your roof can be a major headache and costly problem if not addressed properly.
The single most important preventative measure you can take is to ensure that your attic is properly insulated and well-ventilated. This will do wonders in maintaining a consistent temperature in your attic and on your roof, preventing warm air from escaping and melting snow in the first place.
Additionally, keeping your gutters clear and clean of debris or installing guards like the Alu-Rex Continuous Hanger will prevent water from backing up, freezing, and forming ice dams.