Roof and Gutter Deicing
Question: After the recent snowstorms, I noticed a large ice patch that formed over my gutter and downspout. It grew so large and heavy that it was pulling the gutter off the roof. I was afraid of the damage to my roof or worse, that it would fall on someone below. Long story short, I climbed our rickety ladder and with much physical labor and fear for my safety I manually removed it myself. I don’t EVER want to do that again! Is there a safer, easier way to keep ice build-up off my roof? How do I keep my gutters ice free? Should I remove the snow from my roof?
Answer: It sounds like you have an ice dam issue, a common occurrence in colder climates. While manually removing them as they grow is an option, your best solution is prevention by having roof and gutter deicing cables installed by a qualified electrician.
Snow and Ice Build-Up on Roofs and Gutters
What is the Ice Build-Up in My Gutter?
During the cold and snowy winters here in the Irvington area, we often notice large bands of ice around roof edges covering gutters and creating heavy icicles. These heavy, dangerous mounds are called “ice dams”, and are a common sight during our winter months. Left in place, ice dams can continue to grow causing major damage to gutter systems, roofs, extensive water damage, and pose serious safety issues.
What Causes an Ice Dam?
An ice dam is usually caused by an abnormally warm roof. The warm air inside an attic transfers through the roof, melting the bottom snow layer into water droplets. The droplets trickle down between the shingles and snow layer until reaching the eaves of the roof. Not warmed by the attic’s heat, this area remains below freezing level causing the droplets to refreeze. The process repeats. Snow melts, the droplets run down the roof, refreeze at the overhang, and the layer of ice continues to build resulting in an actual dam that prevents water from properly running off the roof. </>
Why Ice Dams Are Dangerous
While a small amount of ice is not usually a problem, the ice dam continues to grow and becomes heavier and heavier. As the weather warms enough to begin melting the dam, the ice loosens and can eventually break from the roof and crash to the ground below - often taking the gutter and downspouts with it.
Ice dams can damage the roof in other ways, too. The melting water droplets that have seeped between the shingles freeze and expand. As this process occurs, the shingles loosen allowing the water to penetrate the roof causing leaks and damage to the interior of the ceiling ruining the sheetrock and paint. And perpetually wet sheathing can rot from mold and mildew.
How to Keep Gutters Ice Free
There are numerous ways to clear ice dams. There are ice melting chemicals that can be packed into the gutter. But they can be harmful to the shingles, any vegetation or wildlife below, and pollutant to drainage systems. Physically removing an ice dam by breaking it down with brute force is also an option. But working on a snowy, icy roof can be dangerous, difficult work. The best, safest, most reliable solution to prevent ice dams from ever forming in the first place is by having a roof and gutter deicing cable system installed
How Do Roof and Gutter Deicing Cable Systems Work
Deicing cables are installed in a pattern along the eaves line. Their warmth melts the snow immediately around them, creating a path for the melt water to trickle into the gutter. Ice dams may still form but they cannot grow to a size that blocks the flow of additional melts.
Self-regulating deicing cables are a particularly great option. These types of systems turn themselves on and off. They sense when the temperature drops, generating more heat as the thermometer dips.
If you are experiencing a threatening ice dam situation, then properly installed heating cables are a sound preventive measure to protect not only your roof and the entire structure and what is below it as well.
Roof and Gutter Deicing Installation
Plan Installation Before Snow and Ice Conditions
Remember that deicing cables are installed BEFORE there is snow on the roof. So deicing installation is a project to prep for before winter arrives.
Choose a Professional Installer
While DIY kits are available, improper installation can cause damage from electrical shock and fire. It is best to choose a qualified electrician for professional installation. A professional installer determines the optimal placement for the cables and ensures safe and proper configuration. We also ensure all applicable electrical codes and ordinances are met.
Choosing Deicing Cable Placement
Generally, deicing cables are installed on roof areas depending on a number of factors. Sun exposure, wind direction, and roof shape all contribute to ice dam susceptibility. The recommended installation areas may be the entire roof edge or specific areas such as skylights and around dormers. A qualified electrician then installs the cables and proper grounded receptacles.
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