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Wintertime House Leaks? It’s Not Your Gutters. It’s an Ice Dam.

We’re an ice dam removal company, but some people call us to come by and de-ice their gutters and downspouts.  We’d be more than glad to, if those caused ice dams, but gutters don’t cause ice dams.  What’s more, some of these homeowners seem not to realize that they even have ice dams.   They just see frozen gutters and conclude it’s because of a problem with gutters.

Gutters don’t do much in the winter anyway, because water freezes in winter.  Gutters are only meant to handle water in its liquid state.

Gutters do have an effect on ice dams: They extend the overhang on your roof.  This means there’s more space for ice dam to grow, and more surface area for ice dams to stick onto.

Ice dams pop up on overhangs primarily because overhangs are cold. The main reason you have ice dams is your attic is simply too warm.  As a result of your warm attic, the snow on your roof melts.  As the melted snow rolls down the slope of your roof, it refreezes when it reaches your overhangs.  It may take all day for that melted snow finally to reach your overhangs, but it will get there, and when it does it will freeze.

Why are overhangs so cold?  They are the only areas of your roof that do not have a heated space in your home beneath them (e.g. a warm attic). Your overhangs are constantly being cooled from both the top and bottom sides.  Hence the reason overhangs typically adhere to the ambient air temperature.

You can take all the ice out of the gutters and downspouts you want.  Your roof will still have an overhang, and the potential to sprout ice dams.  The ice dam will just form a little higher on your roof.  Your house will continue to leak, and your gutters will fill right back up with water, freeze, and become ice.

Too many people don’t want to believe this.  Deicing gutters is, of course, a faster job than deicing the entire roof.  They’re hoping to “get off easy.”  The trouble is taking care of the gutters won’t take care of the problem.

People call about the gutters because it’s the problem they can see.  Unfortunately, the danger comes from the problem they can’t see.  “Out of sight, out of mind” is just human nature.  But with ice dams that mentality can lead to serious damage, as well as a lot of wasted money if you’re dealing with an unethical or inexperienced ice dam removal company.

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