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  • Writer's pictureMichael Stewart

The Do and Dont's of Ice Dams and Gutters: Prevention and Safe Removal

Winter can be brutal in this region, and ice can wreak particular havoc. Your home, and especially your gutter system, should be prepped to handle winter and the weather that comes with it. At Gutterworks, we’ve seen countless examples of how winter can cause damage to a home’s gutter system and its roof over the years. One problem we see with gutter systems every winter is the formation of ice dams. Ice dams are particularly damaging. They can cause damage to gutters, roofs, and even the interior of your home

Below, find some dos and don’ts that can help protect your home from ice dams.


Do: prevent them from forming!

Prevent ice dams from forming in and on your gutters by ensuring your gutters are clear of any debris. Clogs can create water to back up in above freezing temperatures. If the temperature were to drop, the water pooled inside your gutter could freeze, stressing your gutter system. Ice expands when water freezes and expansion within your gutter can cause plenty of damage. Ice dams form when water backs up and then freezes. A clogged gutter is a prime candidate for the site of an ice dam.


Don’t: get on top of your roof yourself to fix an ice dam.

Never climb a ladder to reach your gutters or roof in snowy or icy conditions to try to fix an issue. Ladders placed on snow or ice are very dangerous, so only a professional should assess the proper way to reach the ice dam. Bulky clothing you would wear to work outside in cold weather also prevents you from working safely on an ice dam issue. Bottom line, if you need to reach the roof in the snow and ice, you need a professional.

Gutter guards are the single most effective preventative measure you can take to protect your gutters and roof from ice dams. The guards filter water through without allowing clogs to form. While snow and ice will be visible on top of the guards, the snow and ice cannot accumulate inside the gutter.


Don’t: try to knock or break ice off of your gutters.

Trying to remove ice from your gutters or roof with any type of tool can be dangerous, and it can cause damage to your structure. First, climbing a ladder to reach the ice dams is treacherous in wet weather with freezing temperatures. Second, any tools you may use to break or knock off the ice can cause injury, especially if temperatures are low enough to affect your performance. Third, tools like hammers, pickaxes, and chisels can cause serious damage to your roof and your gutters, even if it is effective at breaking and removing ice from a dam. Instead, try using a telescoping snow rake to safely remove snow from your roof from the ground.


Do: give your attic ventilation and insulation a check-up.

Your attic insulation should keep warm air from your heated home away from reaching the underside of your roof. You should aim for the underside of your roof to be at the same temperature as the outside air. Ventilation should also be in place to assist in cooling the attic ceiling. Ice dams happen because of snow accumulation coupled with warm air on the underside of a home’s roof. The warm air melts the bottom layer of snow, but the melted snow has nowhere to go. It refreezes in a way that makes the home vulnerable to water damage.


Don’t: neglect your gutters after snow or ice build-up.

Even if your gutters were in good shape before a snow or ice storm, they could still incur damage. Heavy snowfall or ice buildup can cause your gutters to loosen or sag from your home. When your gutters sag or crack, figure out whether the gutters can still function with a repair, or whether you need to look at replacements. Sometimes, you can install brackets to reinforce existing anchors and prevent further damage from too much weight on the gutter.


Do: assess your attic ventilation and insulation.

Your attic insulation should keep warm air from your heated home away from reaching the underside of your roof. You should aim for the underside of your roof to be at the same temperature as the outside air. Ventilation should also be in place to assist in cooling the attic ceiling. Ice dams happen because of snow accumulation coupled with warm air on the underside of a home’s roof. The warm air melts the bottom layer of snow, but the melted snow has nowhere to go. It refreezes in a way that makes the home vulnerable to water damage.


Don’t: ignore the issue in hopes that it goes away when the weather warms up.

Too many homeowners forget about winter gutter damage when warmer temperatures finally arrive. However, allowing broken gutters to remain damaged leaves your home vulnerable to further gutter and roof damage as well as damage to the foundation itself. Gutters need to be operational to do their job, which is to prevent water from going where it shouldn’t. Sagging or cracked gutters can’t operate properly. Further, ice dams can cause interior water damage. Delaying that repair can be costly and damaging.


Do: leave it to the experts!

Call the professionals, like our skilled experts at Gutterworks, to help you with ice dam prevention and removal. You can reach us by emailing or calling us at 304-848-9870.


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