Gutter Guards – Do They Cause Ice Dams?

Those living in the northern or mountain states understand the difficulties of dealing with ice and snow, and the thought alone of ice dams is enough to send chills through any spine. This is especially true in the Midwest and Northeast parts of the country where record breaking snowfalls and unusually long winters have caused thousands of homes to suffer damage due to ice dams. Some wonder if gutter protection is a contributing factor to ice problems. A good answer explains what exactly an ice dam is, and how it forms.

What is an ice dam, and how does it form?

When snow accumulates on a roof, a cycle of melting and refreezing occurs. Ideally, the melted snow enters the gutters before flowing harmlessly to the ground. However, several factors can interact and cause serious problems:

Poor Insulation or Poor Attic Ventilation:

If an attic is too warm, the energy loss will melt the snow on the roof. Under certain conditions when the air temperature is at 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below, the water refreezes at the edge of the roof. This refreezing gradually forms an "ice dam". Over time, this dam will grow in size and block the path of the melted snow. This will then cause a pool of water to form behind the dam until it finds a weak spot in the roof. Once it finds the weak spot, it will suddenly leak into the home and cause damage.

Energy Loss from Cathedral Ceilings, Sky Lights and Chimneys:

Cathedral ceilings and skylights are a major factor in heat loss. In most cases, the insulation is not adequate or there is not enough draw from the vents from the soffits to the roof vents to keep the roof cold. In both cases, the heat melts the ice on the roof. Then it will refreeze at the edge of the roof or in the gutter and cause the dam to form, and potential damage as a result.

Clogged Gutters, Downspouts, and Underground Drain Tiles:

We estimate that 75% of all ice dams originate in the gutter. In many cases, clogged gutters, downspouts or a clogged drain tile causes them. If there is clogging of the Gutter System, the water will not flow properly and will sit and freeze. The ice then grows to the point that an ice dam forms at the edge of the roof line. This problem is very difficult to remove. If left alone, they generally cause a great deal of damage to the gutter system, roof, fascia, soffits and internal damage to the home as well.

Gutter Protection, Guards, And Cover:

It is possible for some gutter protection systems to be the cause of an ice dam. Here are some reasons why: They may have a lack of durability. A cubic foot of ice weighs approximately 60 lbs. If the gutter guards are not strong enough to withstand this weight, they will buckle into the gutter system creating an obstacle. When this happens, an ice dam forms and causes potential damage to the home. Reverse curve gutter covers quickly freeze on the top and in the opening of the nose of the guard. When this happens, there is no place for the water to go and a dam forms. This generally contributes to very large icicles. Raking the snow off a roof will only have marginal success, as the opening on the front nose is still frozen. When this occurs, it closes off any area for the water to enter and evacuate naturally to the ground.

Micro screen aluminum gutter guard covers are a better choice. Ice and snow can build up, but they are easier to roof rake over the reverse curve covers. The ice and snow melt quickly once the screen is visible to the sun. This allows the water to flow and keep the gutter system from icing up. Heated gutters guards are the best choice as they melt any ice or snow immediately and never allow the ice dam to form. They are higher in cost than conventional gutter covers but are the first choice in areas where ice and snow are a way of life. Not only do they work well, but they eliminate constant damage from ice and snow.

How can ice dams be prevented?

Warm the edge of the roof line with IceArmour – Ice Melt Heat or Valley Panels. If the ice dam starts or is isolated to your gutters system, AWA IceBreaker is your best solution. Visit the different products on this website or give us a call at 888-654-4942.