Doc’s December Q & A: Gutters & Snowstorms, Ice Dams and Icicles

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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"WOW! Our gutters look great! Josh And Kamrin arrived right on time and got quickly to work. They were very friendly and didn't mind our 6 year old grandson asking questions. I would recommend Atlas to our friends."

– Kathy S.

"I have been impressed with Atlas home improvement they do things the way I would. Kelly was our installer and was unbelievably hard-working very conscientious and even went the extra mile and called in a grizzly Veteran plumber when presented with a problem. We have used Atlas before and will again soon!"

– Tony M.

"Just a quick note to thank Atlas Home Improvement for the new Gutter Helmet install we received today . From the sales representative Hunter who answered all our question about the product and the company itself to the office personnel that scheduled and kept us informed about the date and times the install crew would arrive (Brook). Kevin and Rick did a great job installing and cleaning up afterwards . Thank you Rick for calling us the morning of install just to verify that indeed you would be arriving shortly . Undoubtably one of the best companies I have dealt with . Atlas made it so very easy to keep myself Safe and my home secure from gutter water damage ."

– Harold B.

"This was our second experience with Atlas. The shower in our last home was truly a primary selling feature. We returned to Atlas because of the quality of the job and the professionalism of the install. We were happy to see the same installers we had at our other house three years ago arrive here today. Chad and Bill did an excellent job. We received the same professionalism and quality we expected. They arrived with all the materials they would need, no hidden surprises, quality materials. They truly live up to everything they promise!"

– Rob R.

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– Linda B.

"Recently, Atlas Home Improvement finished the second phase of my bathroom remodel. Matt and Chad were here every morning on time, stated in their morning phone call. They were friendly, efficient, knew their job and the job site was always in order and clean. They even went out of their way to make sure I was aware of all aspects of the job. They were GREAT!!! This is a great company!!! Very clean and considerate while putting in my new shower. Time the sales consultant was wonderful and really listened to what I want and was never pushy or tried to sell me something I didn't want. David did a wonderful job installing my shower. Great product they sell. I recommend this company highly!"

– Donna P.

"Dave put in a stair lift for me and I was very, very pleased with the whole experience. He assessed the situation with an eye on my safety and recommended changing the side of the staircase the lift was to be installed on. He did the installation quietly and quickly and without creating any mess. And he made sure I understood how the equipment worked and watched me test ride it. I could not have been more satisfied with the whole process. I would highly recommend Atlas to any senior looking to modify their home so that they can age in place."

– Dorrie R.

"We were experiencing temperature problems with our brand new walk-in tub, in that the temperature would not get very hot. After a call to Atlas we were scheduled by the office staff for an appointment within 2 days, which we very much appreciated. Dave arrived on time and immediately diagnosed the problem - and he quickly fixed it. Dave was very professional, pleasant, friendly, and knowledgeable. Our problem has now been fixed! Thank you Atlas for having such a great installation, office, and repair staff."

– Norv S.

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– Sharron R.