How De-Ice Gutters and Prevent Ice Dams Like a Pro

How De-Ice Gutters and Prevent Ice Dams Like a Pro

On average, Long Island sees more than two feet of snowfall each winter. That's an awful lot for your roof to deal with. It's also a major challenge for your home's gutter system. But the snow itself isn't the biggest winter threat your home faces.

The real threat is the ice dam formation and ice buildup on your roof and in your gutters. When an ice dam forms there, it can stop meltwater or ice melt from being carried into your gutters and away from your home. 

And before long, this water will find somewhere else to go — and that's into your home. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to prevent ice dams from ever forming.

At Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaning of Long Island, we know firsthand the importance of ice dam removal and the damage that can be caused when ice dams go unchecked. And believe us, it's not a pretty sight.

Worse still, once ice forms on the roof, you are limited as to the options available to safely perform ice dam removal. As such, the name of the game is to prevent the need for ice dam removal in the first place.

That means the name of the game is prevention — and we're going to tell you how you can do it. But first, we'll discuss why your roof might form ice dams, to begin with. Let's take a closer look at how you can prevent frozen gutters, reduce ice buildup, and stay safe during our snowy winters.

What Is an Ice Dam, Anyway?

As the name suggests, an ice dam happens when ice forms on your roof or in your gutters in a way that prevents the constant flow of water being carried away from your home. And when that happens, it can lead to several different types of property damage.

At the same time, this scenario can be extremely dangerous. Ice dams can force your roof to carry far more weight than it was ever designed to handle — often with catastrophic results. Because of this, it's imperative to use extreme caution whenever dealing with ice dams and melting ice.

How Do Ice Dams Form?

Ice dams are the result of temperature differences across the surface of your roof. Because warm air and hot air tends to rise, your roof's temperature is often highest near its peak. And this causes any snow that has accumulated on the top of the roof to melt faster than it would elsewhere on your roof.

But as that melting snow and meltwater runs down toward your roof's eaves, the temperature of your roof drops. That is because the lower areas of the roof have less heat trapped underneath and this will cause the melting water to refreeze and be completely frozen. Once the water melting from the peak hits the frozen dam, it has nowhere to go but under the shingles.

How Can Gutters Contribute to the Creation of Ice Dams?

In addition, your home's gutters can contribute to the formation of ice dams. If your gutters are obstructed or otherwise damaged during heavy snowfall, ice buildup or partially iced gutters can force water to remain on the coldest part of your roof. 

When that happens it doesn't take long for an ice dam to form. Once formed, it's important to get rid of ice in the gutters or de-ice your gutters as soon as possible. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to prevent ice dams from forming.

Removing Ice Buildup & De-Icing Your Roof and Gutters

Unfortunately, once ice begins to form on your roof and in your gutters, attempting to de-ice your gutters isn't easy. Most importantly, attempting to de-ice your gutters is extremely dangerous.

Because of this, we never suggest you attempt to de-ice your gutters because of the potential hazard and damage you can cause to your home. On one hand, you can't chip away or remove snow and ice that has frozen solid without risking damage to your roof, shingles and home.

Can Calcium Chloride Be Used to Remove Ice Dams?

At Ned Stevens, we always suggest our customers avoid using standard products, such as calcium chloride. If used incorrectly, calcium chloride and other common ice melt products can wreak havoc and cause substantial damage to your roof and shingles.

What Is the Pantyhose Method?

One popular ice dam removal method circulating around on the web is the pantyhose method. This method involves using a de-icing agent, such as calcium chloride. This involves using a pair of pantyhose to create a channel through the ice to give melted water a safe place to go.

Is Calcium Chloride Not Rock Salt?

While both are associated with removing snow from the roof, calcium chloride is not rock salt. One is salt and the other is calcium. Rock salt is best used on parking lots because it helps keep the surface dry, provides some surface grit and doesn't attract moisture.

Can I Use the Hot Water Method to Melt Ice?

Another common method often cited to be effective at removing ice dams is the hot water method. As the name suggests, the hot water method involves pouring hot water on your roof to de-ice your gutters and melt snow. 

This isn't the best method because using water that’s too hot can discolor your shingles and lead to more serious damage. Furthermore, when extreme heat meets extreme cold, the resulting combination can cause undue stress on many metal, glass and plastic building materials.  While attempting to de-ice your gutters yourself is inherently dangerous, adding water to an already slippery situation is setting yourself up for failure.

Preventing Ice Buildup on Your Roof and Gutters

As we mentioned earlier, the best way to deal with ice dams is to prevent them from forming at all. And the good news is, there are plenty of ways you can do that. They include:

  • Keeping Your Gutters Clean – A good way to prevent ice dams is to keep your gutters clean and clear of debris so meltwater has somewhere to go and won't pool on your roof. Keeping clean gutters can prevent snow from accumulating in the gutters, which is a key contributor to ice dams forming on the edge.
  • Keep the roof valleys and the areas around the roof vents, skylights and plumbing vents clean.
  • Adding Insulation to Your Attic – If you add better insulation to your attic, you can prevent heat from escaping your home and creating the conditions necessary for ice dam formation. How much insulation should you add? It all depends on your unique home. Fortunately, most home improvement stores offer different types of attic insulation designed to help.
  • Adding Ridge and Soffit Vents – Since there's no way to stop all heat loss into your attic, you should consider installing ridge, edge, and soffit vents to vent heat away from your attic and stabilize your roof's temperature.  Circulating air in the attic (or plenum) is vitally important to mixing the warmer air in with the colder air to provide for a more uniform temperature and therefore avoiding the hot and cold extremes.
  • Insulate and Seal Attic HVAC Ducts – Homes with forced-air HVAC systems often have ductwork running through their attics, and insulating and sealing them can prevent heat buildup at the ridgeline.

What Is the Best Solution to Prevent Ice Dams?

When it comes to preventing ice dams, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions or long-term permanent fixes. However, the best solution will always be the preventative method that keeps ice dams from forming.  Because of this, many homeowners use a combination of solutions to prevent water damage and avoid freezing ice dams.

If you already have ice dams that have formed, the best course is to seek professional help from the team at Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaning of Long Island.

Get Professional Help at Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaning of Long Island

Your gutters are an important part of your home and are tasked with promoting the free flow of water away from the structure and safely into the ground. During the warm weather, the primary antagonist of this essential function may be leaves, twigs, and debris, which can double as a fire hazard.

However, when temperatures drop and things begin to freeze, the ice dam can become a dangerous problem. As we mentioned previously, the best way to protect your gutter and home is with prevention. But even the most effective preventative measures are not always foolproof.

Fortunately, the team at Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaning of Long Island can help. We offer expert ice dam removal and solutions to prevent ice dams that do not include unsafe or questionable practices.

Keep your feet safely on the ground and contact Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaning of Long Island today.

Erika Cruz

Erika began her career at Ned Stevens in September 2009 after 4 years of managing investment portfolios for banks and credit unions. She graduated with her business degree in Management in May of 2016 while working Full-time at Ned Stevens. With 11 years of gutter expertise, as office manager she is in charge of the day to day operation and is fully dedicated to her staff and customers.