Is a wintertime roof leak on your homeowner Bingo card this year? We hope not, and it’s why we’ve written this article on how to prevent roof ice dams and protect your roof. In it, we will explain what ice dams are, why they occur, and most importantly, how you can prevent them from damaging your home.
After all, there’s a lot to love about winter wonderlands, unless that winter wonderland comes inside when it’s not invited. Let’s look at how proper gutter cleaning and maintenance can help you keep the outside where it belongs this season.
What are ice dams?
You have probably seen ice dams before, whether on your own home or your neighbors’. An ice dam is a buildup of ice that prevents melting snow from draining off your roof. Ice dams form when the snow on your roof melts from heat escaping your home, as well as the heat from the sun. The melted snow trickles down to the roof’s edge, where it refreezes and creates an ice barrier. Over time, ice dams can grow, as the freeze-thaw cycle repeats over a few days and weeks, or as the ice buildup traps additional meltwater coming off the roof.
The bad news is that ice dams pose a threat to your home, contributing to roof and gutter leaks, water damage, and even structural problems. The good news is that you already have the key to preventing them: gutter cleaning.
How to prevent roof ice dams with gutter cleaning
Gutter cleaning is important to prevent roof ice dams for a few reasons. Remember that gutters have one very important job, to carry water away from your home. When water can flow freely through your gutters, you have very little to worry about. When it can’t is when problems start. Over time, water can seep into your walls and foundation, causing mold and structural damage.
As the snow on your roof melts, your home’s gutters provide a clear pathway to channel the water safely away. If gutters are clogged with leaves, debris, or ice, the meltwater can back up and begin to form ice dams.
Proper regular gutter cleaning removes blockages caused by leaves or debris and ensures that water can flow freely away from your home. In addition, regular gutter cleaning helps you protect your home by reducing the weight load on your gutters. Ice accumulation within clogged gutters adds unnecessary weight to your roof. It can also potentially cause damage to the gutters themselves and the fascia holding them in place along your roofline.
Make gutter cleaning and maintenance easier with these steps:
- Inspect regularly. Check out your gutters before winter settles in. Look for signs of clogs, sagging, or damage that could prevent water from flowing freely.
- Clean your gutters regularly. Clean your gutters at least twice annually (more if pine trees are near your roofline). While cleaning should ideally take place in spring and fall, be sure you have cleaned the gutters out after the leaves are down, but before truly freezing temperatures arrive.
- Trim overhanging branches. Overhanging branches can deposit leaves and debris directly into your gutters – think about those farms of maple seedlings in the spring, and gutters choked with leaves in the fall. Trimming them can reduce the amount of debris that ends up in your gutters, making gutter cleaning easier overall.
- Opt for easy, safe gutter cleaning tools. Gutter cleaning can be low on everyone’s idea of a good time. Look for ways to make gutter cleaning easier and safer—for example, with Gutter Sense, a lightweight, easy-to-use tool that enables you to clean the gutters from the ground.
Additional ways to prevent ice dams
Good gutter cleaning goes a long way toward preventing ice dams from forming. As a homeowner, you can take these additional steps:
- Ensure proper attic insulation and venting. Properly insulating and ventilating your attic can help to maintain a more consistent temperature on the roof. This consistency helps to prevent uneven melting and refreezing of snow.
- Seal air leaks. Inspect your attic at least annually, and seal any gaps, cracks, or openings to prevent warm air from escaping and contributing to uneven snow melt.
- Rake the roof. After a heavy snowfall, gently remove some of the snow from your roof with a roof rake. This can also help to prevent excessive snow buildup and the eventual formation of ice dams.
If you notice roof ice dams forming and you are certain your gutters have been properly cleaned and maintained, you might consider hiring a roofing professional to conduct an inspection and determine the cause.
Roof ice dams are more than just a winter annoyance. They can cause serious damage with costly repair bills. Proper gutter cleaning and maintenance can go a long way toward preventing roof ice dam formation.