During the cold weather months, there are a couple of things you have to keep in mind if you are a homeowner. One of them is frozen gutters. They are a common problem in areas that get a lot of rain, sleet, or snow.
What are frozen gutters? They refer to the gutter systems that are filled with water or snow. During the cold months, they can freeze and turn into ice. This will prevent the gutters from functioning correctly and can pose a huge challenge and winter problem for homeowners. So, how to thaw frozen gutters?
Remember, frozen pipes can cause damage to the gutters, which is the area around your home. Even the eaves where the gutter is installed. Read on to find out some possible solutions for this winter problem.
Why do gutters freeze?
There are a lot of different reasons why your gutters may freeze. For starters, it depends on your specific location and climate. The most common cause of gutter freezing is a blockage causing water to build up and turn into ice.
It happens a lot more often in areas where trees drop leaves, limbs, and berries into gutters. Over the years, this practice can cause buildup and prevent water from flowing adequately through the gutter. Combine that with lower temperatures, even freezing temperatures, and that water will freeze.
Another common reason is snow or sleet buildup in the gutter. When the snow starts to build up in the gutter and freeze before it can melt and flow, you have a huge problem. It happens often in areas that see more snow during the winter.
The good news is that both issues are preventable and solvable.
We have to note that frozen gutters and downspouts create a range of potentially long-lasting effects. The weight of ice buildup in a gutter can pull the gutter away from the house. This will cause permanent damage to your roof and siding. Ice-clogged gutters lead to a major moisture problem.
Melting snow on the roof will have nowhere to travel and eventually cause water to travel up beneath the shingles. It can lead up to mold growth and leaks.
So, to put it simply, frozen gutters are more than just a nuance. They are not something you can or should ignore. They are downright pain in the neck to alleviate. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, do not worry. There are a few ways for clearing. Let’s talk about how to thaw frozen gutters.
The wrong way to thaw gutters
Before we get to the proven methods for cleaning and clearing your gutters, let’s talk about what you should never try. Yes, some people might have told you that these methods work. But this is how not to thaw gutters.
You should never, in any case, try to break the ice with a hammer. Doing so can dent your gutters or cause them to separate from the roof. And as we said before, if the gutters separate from the roof, it will lead to a whole new host of problems.
You should never use a hatchet, ax, or shovel to break the ice. It might cause the same problem as with the hammer. Applying more damage might cause more problems than solutions for your frozen gutters.
Last, but not least, do not try to take a blowtorch and melt the ice. It might cause a fire, and then you have another different problem.
Three Proven Ways to Clean Gutters
Now that we know what you shouldn’t do, let’s talk about how to thaw frozen gutters effectively. There are three proven methods that work.
The Stocking Method
This is one of the most popular techniques for cleaning gutters and thawing ice dams. The stocking method involves calcium chloride, a substance/chemical that will help with the melting of the ice.
Why does it work? Well, it is the same chemical compound that the authorities sprinkle on roads and sidewalks during the winter months to melt ice.
Now, there is a right way and a wrong way to use it. Do not sprinkle directly on the ice in the gutters. This might stain your shingles and corrode the aluminum of the gutters.
What is the better way to use it? Well, fill stockings or long socks with the compound. Then, lay the socks/stockings on top of the ice-clogged gutter. Fill enough stockings to line the length of your gutters. This will create a channel through the ice in which water can flow and travel. It will keep the gutters operable.
The hot water method
We said you cannot use fire to melt the ice. But you can use hot water. It is another effective method for removing ice dams in the gutters. It might not be a long-term solution. But it delivers fast results.
If you have minor ice blockage, use a ladder to climb up next to your gutters and pour warm water along the entire length of the gutters. Also, drop some water into the opening of the downspout.
If you have larger ice dams, you will have to find a way to run a sustained stream of hot water through the frozen gutters. It might be a challenge for homeowners. Therefore, for bigger blockages, you might be better off by hiring professionals that will thaw your gutters.
The rake method
We said before that you should not use a hammer, hatchet, shovel, or ax to clean your gutters. While you might be ready to start smashing the ice, that might be a problem. And it can cause damage to the gutters and roof.
Instead, we suggest using a long-handled aluminum roof rake that will clean the ice out of the gutters. These are rakes that are specifically designed to remove leaves and other debris from roofs. Raking the ice will not only clear it, but also change the exterior temperature of the roof and prevent further buildup.
Can You Wait it Out?
Now, in some cases, you might decide that waiting is the best choice. After all, sunny days will come and melt the ice naturally. Some professionals even might tell you that the best course of action at the moment is waiting.
There are a few questions you should answer before deciding if waiting is the choice for you:
- What the weather will be like in the next few days? Will you get warm weather?
- What is the current state of the dam, is it dripping in your home?
- Do you have the proper tools and equipment to complete the job?
- Do you have someone willing to help you?
Water dams that do not leak inside your home might be better off waiting. Is it worth it to climb a ladder during a storm and risk damaging your gutters and roof? The choice is yours.
How to prevent frozen gutters?
In the long-term, the best solution for how to thaw frozen gutters is to prevent them from happening altogether. If you have ice in the gutters, and it is a regular occurrence, you should address the root of the problem during warmer weather.
Some proactive tips include maintaining your roof and avoiding leaks, installing heat cables in the gutters, or adding foam insulation to your gutters and downspouts.
More than any method, the best way to prevent frozen gutters is to practice regular maintenance of your home. That will ensure that the gutters are clear of leaves and debris. Without debris, even snow and ice will be able to flow through the gutters.
Another way to prevent it, but one that will cost you more, is to add attic insulation. Make sure your attic is properly insulated and sealed. If you have heat escaping from a certain spot in your attic, that will create conditions and an environment for ice dams to form. It might be challenging to identify these spots on your roof. But if you call the help of a professional, they will identify them. It will prevent ice dams and lower your home’s energy cost.