Gutters are crucial to preventing winter property damage. They stop meltwater from running off the upper section of a roof and onto its lower section: a constant drip, drip, drip which slowly strips underlying shingles of their protective granules all winter long.
But even if you don’t have an upper and lower roof, you still have a lot to gain by maintaining your existing gutters (or installing brand new custom gutters). That’s because gutters also help to prevent ice dams – the bane of every Minnesotan homeowner’s existence!
What Is an Ice Dam?
An ice dam forms when (A) a section of roof is warmer than 32 °F, and (B) the surface immediately beneath it is below freezing. When meltwater from the warmer section of roof reaches the freezing section, it … well, it freezes. That process ultimately gives form to a large ridge of ice – an ice dam, which earns the second half of its name by preventing meltwater from trickling off the roof altogether.
Water takes the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, when it is dammed up on a roof, taking the path of least resistance means permeating the shingles and decking. After meltwater has dampened the attic and destroyed its installation, it can soak into the underlying frame, ceilings and walls. Discoloration, mold infestation, extensive damage and even drywall collapse can result.
Ice dams aren’t just destructive to property. They cause large icicles to form, which means they can also cause heavy, pointy objects to fall from your roof. That’s bad news if one hits your central AC – but even worse news if one hits you.
Can Gutters Prevent Ice Dams?
There are many ways to avoid ice dams. You can add more insulation and ventilation to your attic, which will help keep any part of the roof’s surface from becoming warm enough to melt snow. Or you can rake your roof after each snowfall, thus depriving ice dams of the moisture they require in order to form and grow. You can also install heated coils (although professional roofers often advise against them for multiple reasons).
Whichever course of action you take to combat the appearance of ice dams, make sure your gutters are part of it. Your gutter system isn’t just designed to allow rainwater to flow freely off your roof. It is designed to do the same to meltwater as well! Every droplet of water that flows through your gutters and downspouts is another that won’t solidify into a big headache.
We recommend cleaning your gutters twice a year: spring and fall. Getting rid of all the leaves, red maple seeds, pine needles and other arboreal debris that gather in your gutter system before winter arrives is crucial to maintaining its ability to safely channel meltwater away from your home. That may not necessarily prevent ice damming altogether, but it can turn a big problem into a smaller one.
Want an even greater gutter advantage this winter? Consider installing gutter guards, which prevent a lot of debris from accumulating inside gutters and downspouts in the first place. You may also lay heat tape beneath your gutter guards. It is an investment in more electricity, to be sure, but also capable of helping the gutters flow more freely by keeping them unobstructed by ice.
If you live in the greater Rochester, MN area, then the perfect solution to all your residential and commercial gutter needs is right on the screen in front of you. Contact Curry’s Custom Cut Gutter today for assistance in your ongoing war against ice dams!