Winter Storm Icicles Snow Weather Warning Freezing Temperature GutterQ: Doc, I don’t have a gutter protection system and I didn’t clean my gutters before this past storm. Do you have any advice?

A: Now that snow and ice have formed, it’s probably too late to worry about cleaning your gutters. Depending on how bad they are occluded, how much snow is on the roof, and how much heat loss you have in the attic, the problem to watch for now is ice dams.

It is very common for people to get caught late in the season with leaf and debris filled gutters.  It just is. Most people don’t get around to cleaning their gutters. The danger now is a buildup of ice along the eave, an ice dam. As long as the temperatures stay cold/freezing, water does not pose a problem. The problem starts as things warm up.

While we’re enjoying a break in the cold weather, the ice dam begins to melt and the water is trapped behind the ice dam and has nowhere to go.  This newly created water can work its way underneath the shingles and underlayment, fall into the soffit area or attic and get into the house. You will know this is happening if you see:

–  Wet drywall (ceiling or walls)
–  Windows leaking (on the inside of the house)
–  Water dripping through the soft spots in the ceiling

Not only will the drywall need to be replaced depending on severity, but that means, taping joints, coats of spackling, sanding, priming and re-painting. Plus any insulation in the attic that got wet must be removed and replaced.  So you can see how ice dams can cause a world of problems for the homeowner

At this point, with last weekend’s snowstorm, dumping as much as a foot of snow on the rooftops of Metro Detroit, there is not much that can be done about the debris in your gutters until the ice is removed and water penetration is stopped. You can still call in a good insulation company.

A reputable company will assess your insulation and recommend solutions, should you have heat loss that is contributing to ice dam build up.

Sometimes with proper insulation, icicles and ice dams can still form. Ice dams and the problems they cause is a complicated issue.

The way the house faces, prevailing winds, the color of the shingle, and size and capacity of the gutter system all have an impact on this problem. There is just not enough space in the soffit area to do what should be done to properly insulate and ventilate a house. It’s just the way most houses are designed in this country.

That is why we offer the Helmet Heat electric wiring system, placed directly into the gutter, the underside of the Gutter Helmet panel, and down the downspouts.  

For emergency situations, we offer Icebusters – often we can remove the ice with our steamers. It doesn’t solve the underlying causes though it relieves the immediate issue of water penetration by removing the ice which is causing the backup.

Most of the time we can remove the leaves in the gutters at the same time which helps get things flowing…and helps gutter-cleaning procrastinators!

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