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The Hazards of Ice in Your Gutters

June 15, 2009

Ice in your gutters can cause a great deal of damage to your roof, gutters and down spouts, and soffit and fascia. In addition, icicles and melting ice coming off the gutters pose a hazard by falling ice and ice melt refreezing on walkways. There are some solutions that are available, but only a few of them work effectively.

If you can find a way to get the rainwater off of your roof, into your gutters, down the down spouts and onto the grade of the lawn, your home would last forever. What we are talking about here is the home's water management system, which typically consists of the gutter system and some sort of leaf protection to prevent clogs in the system. In the northern parts of the US this system works well for nine months out of the year. Why? Because frozen water doesn't flow during the three months of winter.

Ice causes all sorts of problems to your home because when water freezes, it expands and pushes apart various structures. Here are some common areas that are prone to ice damage:

Gutters: Moisture gets in between the gutters and the fascia and separates the gutters from the fascia. The weight of the ice in the gutters and gravity finish the destruction by causing the gutters to fall. The gutters are so distorted by the damage incurred by falling that they can't be reattached.

Soffit and Fascia: Soffit and fascia are made of thin coil stock. Their purpose is to seal up the wood and prevent having to paint. The thickness of these materials is purely cosmetic and they are not made to support the structure of the home. Subsequently they cannot manage a large weight of ice along side or on top of them. Moisture gets behind the fascia and the freezing water expands, separating the trim from the fascia board. After the thaw, the fascia board can rot out as well. Water sometimes collects dangerously on top of the soffit, freezing and forming huge blocks of ice, and causing the thin soffit panels to collapse. Can you imagine if they were to fall on someone!

Roof: The most common cause of roof damage is ice damming under the first row of shingles coming up from the gutters. Ice forms in the gutters in two ways; it works its way up a narrow downspout, or from snow accumulation in the gutters and subsequent layering of ice melt coming off the roof. Eventually the ice overflows in the gutter. Ice gets an anchor point in the gutter and it literally pries up the first row of shingles where the roof is most vulnerable. After the thaw, it is not uncommon to have broken shingles and leaks in the roof at these critical spots. Roof leaks can cause additional damage in the interior of the home.

Icicles hanging from the Gutters: This situation is a hazard for the people walking below. You have the issue of ice falling on someone. Or much worse, ice melt falls on to walkways and then refreezes. This creates a hazard for people trying to navigate the walkways. A spill on the ice can lead to an expensive hospital bill and an inordinate amount of time spent recovering from the injuries. There is always the potential for a law suit from a neighbor or visitor getting hurt on your property. You may or may not be covered in these instances by your homeowner's insurance.

There are many solutions available to deal with icing in the gutters. You need to research them carefully as many do not live up to their promises, and some are very dangerous. But there are a few that work quite effectively.


Author: JR Girskis

Serving the Quad Cities, Quad City, Davenport, Bettendorf, Moline, Rock Island, East Moline, Sterling, Rock Falls, Muscatine, Clinton, Dewitt, Iowa, Illinois, and Surrounding Areas.