Will removing the rain gutters or lowering them fix my ice dam problem?

olivia.tate2's Avatar


29 Apr, 2016 07:24 AM

If you’ve ever had a problem with ice dams forming on your roof, you know it can be a very costly problem. When ice forms on your roof and snowmelt can’t escape, it backs up, seeps beneath the shingles and damages your roof as well as your home’s interior. Ice dams can cost homeowners thousands of dollars if they go unchecked. If you’ve had ice dams on your roof in the past, you may be thinking about ways to avoid that problem this winter. One option you may see others doing from time-to-time is removing their rain gutters all together, or lowering them a few inches below the roof’s edge. The idea behind this is to remove or lower the part of the roof where ice dams usually form. But in actuality, this does almost nothing to solve the problem. Here’s why.

The rain gutters aren’t the problem

When ice dams form on a roof, they usually form in the rain gutters with icicles hanging down off the sides. Common sense might suggest that to stop this from happening, the rain gutters need to be removed or lowered so that the ice can’t form there. But what many homeowners don’t realize is that the rain gutters themselves have almost nothing to do with the formation of ice dams. It’s true that the rain gutters provide a convenient shelf where ice can accumulate and cause problems, but the roof of the problem is much further up the roof above where the attic space is.

Typically snow on the roof wouldn’t melt until temperatures were high enough, and then the snowmelt would run off the roof, into the rain gutters and into the downspouts where it would be channeled away from the home’s foundation. But if a warm attic space is causing the snow to melt on the roof before temperatures are high enough, that snowmelt will trickle down to the edge of the roof and rain gutters where the surface is colder and it will refreeze. This is how the ice dam forms.

If a homeowner were to remove or lower their rain gutters, ice would still accumulate along the edges of the roof and would still cause the same problems typical of ice dams.

How to deal with ice dams

The only real long term solution to preventing ice dams is to improve the insulation in the attic space but there some other good tips to keep in mind. Ice dams are more likely to form if water can’t get to the rain gutters and to the downspouts. It’s important to make sure that your gutters and downspouts are cleaned out leading up to the winter months. Also make sure that leaves, twigs, and other debris hasn’t accumulated on your roof as well. If you do notice ice dams forming, use hot water to melt them rather than using an ice pick or a briny ice melt product which can damage your shingles.

Home improvement news brought to you by bartonroof.com
Source: bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/real-estate/2016/01/10/ice-dams-and-truth-about-gutters-metal-roofs/WMtpNNyTWNp5M6APsicuZJ/story.html

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