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5 Ways to Get Rid of Ice Dams from Gutters

An ice dam is defined as a build-up of ice that gathers on the eaves of sloped roofs. Ice dams on gutters result from melting snow over a heated building reaching the eave and freezing. Though ice dams can look picturesque with dangling icicles, it’s actually hard on your home. Icicles can break off parts of your gutters, loosen shingles, and cause water to leak into the interior.

gutter ice dams hanging from gutters

Therefore, you should take steps to prevent ice dams from building on your gutters. Here are the 5 ways to get rid of ice dams from gutters.

#1 Rake the Roof

Unfortunately, the first method that homeowners tend to rely on when it comes to removing ice dams from the gutters is by picking at the ice with a chisel or hammer. It’s actually a bad idea to try this removal practice as its hard on the roof, might cause more damage, and also poses a safety hazard for you.

If you want to use a hand tool to try and break up a dam, the best tool is a rake. Long-handled aluminum roof rakes are specifically designed for removing clutter from the roof and gutters.

The long handle allows you to safely address the issue from the ground. Roof rakes that feature wheels are the best option because it won’t damage the shingles. Raking snow and ice on a roof automatically changes the exterior temperature. It prevents the build-up of dams before it becomes a major problem.

#2 Introduce Cold Air

Ice dams are created on gutters when the hot air from inside your home rises through the roof. The heat causes the snow to melt until it reaches the gutters, which are much colder than the rest of the roof.

Eaves are notoriously cold and unheated. Now that the dripping water reaches the much colder part of the roof if freezes once again, building up shingles as more and more water drips down.

One solution to fix the problem is to blow in cold air. If you have an attic you can bring a box fan up to it and blow cold air to the roof. When you aim a box fan through the attic toward the underside of the roof where the water is actively leaking you can put a stop to it. The cold air will freeze the water in its tracks, preventing it from reaching the eaves.

#3 Get Inventive with Deicer

Salt is well known to erode at ice. The problem with salt is that it’s hard on everything else. Salt can damage your shingles, roofing, and other components of the structure. One solution is to get creative. In fact, you can combat the problem with a common item found in a woman’s wardrobe – pantyhose.

It may sound absurd, but a pair of pantyhose is a great way to break up ice dams before they become an issue on the gutter. All you need to do is fill an old pair with a calcium chloride ice melt. Then, lay the pantyhose on the roof so it crosses the ice dam and overhangs the gutter.

If you hate being on ladders, especially in the middle of the winter, a long-handled rake or hoe can help you place the home-made deicer solution on the roof. The calcium chloride will eventually melt through the snow and ice, creating a new channel for water to flow down into the gutters and off the roof.

#4 Roof Heated Cables

electric roof heated cables for deicing the roof and gutters

While it’s a more expensive option compared to using a rake, box fan, or old pair of leggings – roof heated cables are one of the best and long-term options for preventing ice dams. Heated cables are proactive, so unlike the first three remedies on the list it stops ice dams before they form.

You can buy heated roof cables at any hardware store. You can expect to spend between $50 to $100 for enough cable to install it on troublesome areas, or directional sides where ice dams build up the most.

If you wish to install heated cables around the entire perimeter, depending on the square footage, the final bill will probably run somewhere between $600 and $900. The total cost also depends on if you personally install the cables or hire a professional.

For DIY install make sure that you follow the included instructions. Heated cables go in a zigzag pattern vertically on the roof. The cables attached to the roof with included clips.

It is the opposite of using a box fan in the attic which introduces cold air to the roofing and freezes snow. Heated roof cables work great, but you need to make sure you install them before the first snowfall of the year.

#5 Improve Dynamics of Eaves

As previously mentioned the eaves are where all the trouble begins for ice dams. Eaves are considered part of the roof that meets or overhangs the walls of the building. If you want to get rid of ice dams for good you need to adhere to one basic philosophy: keep the entire roof the same temperature as the eaves.

There are a number of ways you can improve this concept. Improving the ventilation, adding insulation, and sealing off every possible air leak can go a long way. If you wish to add more ventilation the target area is the soffit. When you pair a ridge vent with continuous soffit vents you can circulate more cold air under the roof.

You can also avoid hot air exhaust from the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room from making the roof even warmer by having those ducts exit through the walls or roof. The last place you want this exhaust to enter the outdoors is through the soffit.

Another solution is to improve the insulation on the attic floor. The insulation will help keep heat trapped, and direct it back down toward the rest of the interior. Remember, heat rises so insulating the attic floor goes a long way.

Lastly, you can help unwanted air leaks near the roof eaves by capping the attic hatch, installing flashing around chimneys, sealing and insulating air ducts, and caulking around electrical cables and vent pipes.

Get Rid of Ice Dams On Your Gutters

Though icicles may look beautiful they are destructive to your roofing and gutters. Icicles also pose a safety hazard for anyone walking below them. Thankfully, trying one or more of the 5 best ways to remove ice dams from gutters will go a long way toward solving the problem.

Replace Your Gutter at Feldco

Your gutters will not hold up for too long. Old gutters undergo cracks, splits, rust stains and mold. Living in the Midwest, your gutters need to be replaced often since they go through extreme weather and snow storms. At Feldco, we take care of your home from windows to aluminum gutters. Now’s the time to speak to a product specialist about gutter replacement. Get a free quote online today!

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