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Old 02-02-2011, 10:54 AM   #1
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Gutter ice dams


I live in NE Pennsylvania where we have been having a lot of snow and recently ice. I am experiencing frozen gutters and downspouts. I do have gutter guards to prevent leaves from clogging the gutters and downspouts but still have ended up with ice dams. Snow is still on parts of the roof; however, the afternoon sun does eventuially melt sections of it only to refreeze at night. Any suggestions on how to address this before there is damage is most appreciated.

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Old 02-02-2011, 11:05 AM   #2
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Gutter ice dams


Throw some calcium chloride up on the roof. Means getting the ladder out. Before fall, you may want to look at putting in some gutter heating cables. With a Winter like this, there really is nothing you can do, other than try to do preventative damages. Do take pictures on going, so if there is damage, and you need to file a claim with your Home Owner's Insurance, you have proof of when & how it happened.

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Old 02-02-2011, 11:54 AM   #3
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The longer term solution will require air sealing your attic appropriately, having correct ventilation in your roof, and enough insulation in the attic. A lot of this you can do yourself but it can be a dirty job. By air sealing, I mean that you will have to find all of the cracks/holes/voids that are in the attic and seal them up by caulk/spray foam/etc. You will have to move insulation around to find the voids and fill them. As one example, cracks and voids happen where room ceilings come together. From inside the house, it appears that the drywall/plaster is sealed up tight. In the attic side, the thickness of that seal may be thin or there are cracks in that joint that need to be address. Another example is where plumbing pipes go through the ceiling and the cutout is way bigger than the pipe. Hot air seeps through the crack and helps leads to ice dams. Consider that there are several gaps in the attic and if each gap was 1/4" width but runs the length of the attic, you have quite the amount of heat leaving the home. If you attic is not finished, then the attic should be cold above the insulation and warmer below the insulation. If you are attic is finished, then your job scope has just changed by an order of magnitude. Either way, there is a ventilation/unintended heat loss problem.


Ice dams are caused when warmer air enters the attic from the home through gaps, etc., warms the underside of the roof, the snow melts, it reaches the soffits/overhangs, meets with cold air again, and freezes there. You need to prevent the melting to begin with but also address the ventilation issues. Have to do both.

All in all it works well but if you have a lot of snow ( I mean a lot), you may have to do other things like gregzoll mentioned above. Get the attic sealed and ventilated correctly and then adjust from there.
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Old 02-02-2011, 01:39 PM   #4
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Gutter ice dams


That is not why the OP is having frozen gutters. They have frozen gutters & downspouts, because of all the ice & snow that has been falling on the East Coast, and are getting another round of Ice & snow again today.
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Old 02-03-2011, 06:41 AM   #5
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Gutter ice dams


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Ice dams are caused when warmer air enters the attic from the home through gaps, etc., warms the underside of the roof, the snow melts, it reaches the soffits/overhangs, meets with cold air again, and freezes there. You need to prevent the melting to begin with but also address the ventilation issues. Have to do both.
While I don't doubt that attic issues can contribute to ice dams, I have become skeptical about how much affect it has. Parts of my roof cover spaces that are completely open to the exterior (screen room, porch). The ice dams there are as bad as anywhere.

I have come to the conclusion that the only way to eliminate the ice dams are the active ones: heating elements, chemicals, physical removal.
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Old 02-03-2011, 09:42 AM   #6
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Gutter ice dams


I know it's self serving but I agree with oberkc. You can have 3' of insulation in your attic and vents at the ridge, heat will alway seek the cold. It's the first law of thermal conductivity (if there is a numbered list). The only way to prevent it is to run heated cables in the gutters and leaders and, if need be, heat the over or under the shingles or metal as well.

The other problem is the new style leaf guards that create a 'helmet' over the gutters. I don't want to name names but, you get the idea. If you walk into any restaurant with an ice maker, they're design is exactly the same as these leaf guards. Allow water to flow over a cold metal surface until it builds up an ice sheet and then cut it into little cubes. The guards are designed to produce ice. Some of the manufacturers have realized the word is out and are now offerimg, though very quietly, a clip that is installed under the guard to heat it as well as heating the bottom of the gutter. That means 2x the heating element normally needed to heat just the gutters...but hey, you won't have any leaves clogging them!
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Old 02-03-2011, 04:30 PM   #7
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Gutter ice dams


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Originally Posted by smoky View Post
I live in NE Pennsylvania where we have been having a lot of snow and recently ice. I am experiencing frozen gutters and downspouts. I do have gutter guards to prevent leaves from clogging the gutters and downspouts but still have ended up with ice dams. Snow is still on parts of the roof; however, the afternoon sun does eventuially melt sections of it only to refreeze at night. Any suggestions on how to address this before there is damage is most appreciated.
If you want the gutters and leaders to remain ice free, install ice melt cables.
From what I've read about the calcium chloride crystals, they will damage the aluminum gutters. The magnesium chloride crystals will do less damage.
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Old 02-03-2011, 08:07 PM   #8
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Gutter ice dams


Rake the gutter edges with a roof rake. This winter has been terrible with all the freeze and thaw cycles. This will help stop new ice from forming in the gutters. I was out this morning raking off less than 2 inches of new snow. Most years, I wouldn't bother with that little amount but this year I can't afford to let any more contribute. The more ice that builds up in the gutters, the more likely they will come down.

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