It’s that time of year again when the temperature drops, the sweaters come out, and the world turns into a frosted scene of snowy white. However, for many homeowners, this so-called winter wonderland can turn into a winter nightmare all too quickly. Gutter maintenance is probably not the first thing you think of when winter approaches but it is (or should be) an important part of your winter home preparations. In northern climates where temperatures frequently reach levels below freezing, it is imperative to have a properly maintained gutter system.
As snow accumulates on your roof, besides acting as a landing cushion for ol’ St. Nick and a decorative frosting reminiscent of a gingerbread house, it can melt down your roof and refreeze around your gutters. This phenomenon is referred to as ice damming.
Ice dams may cause beautiful icicles to form along your roof, but they can have dangerous and destructive consequences for your home. Ice dams typically occur due to varying rates of melting. The bottom part of the roof is often cooler than the top, meaning that ice and snow will melt and run down to the gutter area where they will refreeze at the edge. This creates a wall of ice that captures subsequent snow melt from the roof, building up a larger and larger dam. This can cause damage to your roof and to the gutters on your home. As ice builds up under and around the roof, it can cause costly leaks, water damage, and a broken gutter.
Although it is March, and you may be thinking that you are in the clear as the warmer weather approaches, think again. While the days are longer and often warmer, temperatures can drop rapidly at night. This can cause all that snowmelt from the day to pool and freeze at the edge of your roof and in your gutters. You may be in for a nasty surprise when those April showers end up inside your house due to leaks caused by ice buildup.
However, there are a few ways to combat Jack Frost this season. Roof de-icing cables and gutter heaters are simple, and effective ways to prevent unwanted ice dams on your roof. De-icing cables are simply heated wires that are installed along the bottom ledge of your roof. Their purpose is to melt the snow before it has a chance to accumulate.
Another option is to install a gutter heater. These cables run along the gutter, preventing ice and snow from building up and blocking the drain, as well as preventing further damming along your roof. When gutters become clogged with snow and ice, the weight can cause the gutter to tear away from the roof, damaging both your roof and gutter system, and costing you a pretty penny. Rather than deal with the hassle (and danger) of periodically de-icing your gutters yourself, installing a gutter heater is a great way to ensure minimal ice buildup.
There are various roof heating systems available. Some cables only cover the gutter, others will extend from the gutter to the roof. For those with gutter guards covering their gutters, heated gutter caps can be added to heat snow and ice accumulations, letting the runoff drain into the gutter and away from your house. Depending on your house and snow melt needs you can choose the right system for your family. Whatever route you decide on, the best practice is to install before the weather becomes inclement to avoid potential injury. Trying to install a gutter heater in the middle of an ice storm is dangerous and unwise. But if you invest in heaters before the onset of winter, or when conditions are favorable, you will reap the benefits. You can safely avoid dangerous roof maintenance, guard against costly ice and water damage to your home, and prevent self-inflicted damages to your house from shoveling, de-icing, and salting your roof.
Michael David graduated from Utah Valley University with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies. He now lives in New York City and works as a freelance journalist. Michael loves writing about DIY projects, home improvement, and garden-related topics. From Salt Lake City electricians to Miami gardeners, Michael is happy to help.