Roof Gutter and Ice Dam Formation: What You Need to Know

The sight of icicles dripping down and clinging to the edges of the roof of a house may paint an idyllic winter picture, but in reality, these are ice dams, and they can be extremely damaging to your property.

What are ice dams?

When melting snow runs down a sloped roof’s surface and refreezes, ridges of ice called “ice dams” form on the eaves.

Ice dams usually form on heated homes. In the winter, heat rises through the ceiling and into the attic, effectively warming the roof. When the roof’s temperature goes above 32°F, it’s enough to melt snow. But the roof’s edges, subject to the outside elements, remain below freezing.

As the top of the roof warms and melts snow, the snowmelt runs down the slope and reaches the cold edges, where it freezes. As the cycle continues, water can get trapped behind the growing rim of ice along the roof’s edges and create a full-fledged ice dam.

Ice dams can cause many problems, including backed-up water leaking into your house and the weight of icicles loosening roof shingles and tearing off your home’s gutters.

Gutter protection

How do gutters contribute to ice dam formation?

The formation of icicles is inevitable in the winter. Everybody heats their homes, which will naturally heat the roof enough to melt snow. It’s what happens when the snowmelt runs down that causes destructive ice dams to form—and your gutters may be the culprit.

If you have an open gutter system, the melted snow can settle into the gutter until it fills and overflows, causing icicles to form. This is why gutter guards are important.

When water freezes, it expands, which means your gutters can crack or get some other type of damage when ice dams form. With gutter guards, you can prevent melted snow from getting into the gutter and freezing there.

Gutter guards are also important for preventing dirt buildup inside your gutter. When leaves, twigs, and other debris accumulate in your open gutter, it gets clogged, and water cannot drain properly through the downspouts.

As such, when the snow melts, the water doesn’t drain out. It just stays in the gutter until it freezes again or gets frozen over by a new deluge of snowmelt and forms an ice dam.

Apart from gutters without proper guards, another cause of ice dams are incorrectly installed gutters and guards. It’s also possible that you may have used the wrong gutter guards.

Even with proper gutter guards, if you don’t maintain your gutters regularly by cleaning them, there may still be debris inside that clogs the drain and prevents water from flowing freely down.

Protect Your Gutters and the Structure of Your Home

Here are some of the things you can do to prevent ice dams from forming and damaging your property:

  • Install heat cables
  • Rake the snow off your roof
  • Insulate your home to prevent heat loss
  • Install gutter guards

G.H. Clark Contractors is a Maryland-based gutter installation company, providing an array of services to homeowners. Whether you need to install a gutter protection system or new gutters to replace your old ones damaged by ice dams, our team will get the job done.

Get a free estimate when you contact us today.

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