When Should I Remove Ice From My Roof and Gutters?

As snow begins to fall and temperatures dip below 32 degrees, ice can quickly threaten the integrity of your roof and gutter systems. Without efficient movement of water away from your home, moisture can penetrate your walls causing leaks, mold and mildew growth, and even collapse.

We’ll walk through a couple scenarios you may see this winter and help you decide when it’s time to remove ice from your roof and gutter.


Frozen Gutters and Downspouts

You wake up on a bright winter morning and realize the water from your downspout is frozen in midair; your whole downspout is a solid block of ice.

How did we get to this point? The main culprit of a frozen gutter or is a dirty gutter. Mud, rocks, and leaves from the previous summer and fall back up the flow of water, trapping it and allowing it to freeze. We recommend a professional gutter cleaning at least twice a year (late spring and early fall) to prevent blockage from forming.


How do I melt a frozen gutter or downspout?

Put the hammer and ice picks away. Not only is knocking the ice loose generally ineffective, but it can also cause irreparable damage to your gutters. Whatever you do, don’t hit your gutters or downspouts.

Before you panic, wait it out. Sometimes the best (and least expensive) course of action is to monitor the gutter or downspout closely to see if it melts on a sunny day. If the weight of the ice is already causing the gutter downspout to pull away from the house or water is seeping into your home, it’s time to call a professional.

DIY-inclined homeowners will usually try home remedies (like placing a salt-filled sock in the downspout) before calling in the cavalry, but these methods are generally a waste of time and don’t solve the problem completely.

The only way to reliably clear your gutters is to have a professional use a steam or hot water application to melt the ice completely. Pricing for this service is generally between $500 and $1000 depending on the size of the job.


How do I prevent a frozen gutter or downspout?

It may be time to gift yourself some peace of mind this holiday. To ensure frozen gutters never happen again, we recommend installing a heat panel system that melts ice immediately. At $500 to $750, the installation will pay for itself after just a few winter seasons.


Ice Dams

You look up from the sparkling icicles to see they’re hanging from a giant chunk of ice precariously perched on the edge of your roof. You’ve got yourself an ice dam.

When melting snow runs down your roof and does not reach the gutter before it freezes, it creates a ridge of ice on your roof, also known as an ice dam. The ice dam traps even more water that eventually makes its way under roof shingles and into your home.  

If icicles are suspended from your gutter and not an ice dam, it’s still a good idea to remove them as they may be precursors to an ice dam. If you find water stains or moisture inside of your home caused by an ice dam, it should be removed immediately.


How do I remove an ice dam?

Remove ice dams as soon as you spot them.  In this case, the salt-in-a-sock method may help (this will not help a downspout). After carefully removing snow 3-4 feet from the edge of your roof using a roof rake, fill nylon stockings with calcium chloride ice melt product you can find at your local hardware store.

Lay the stockings vertically along the ice dam to create troughs where water can flow through. DO NOT use rock salt or sodium chloride that can damage your shingles. Protect shrubbery and plants from the calcium chloride with tarps.

Depending on the amount of snowfall your area is receiving, the calcium chloride trick may not work quickly enough. If the situation does not improve in a day’s time, do not hesitate to call a professional.


How do I prevent ice dams?

Regularly clearing snow from your roof will absolutely lower the risk of ice dams forming. Be especially mindful of packed snow more than four inches in height. The light, fluffy stuff melts more easily.

Consult a roofing or energy specialist to inspect non-uniform roof surface temperatures that contribute to ice dams. They can help you develop a plan to properly seal and insulate your attic space and roof deck.  


The Icy Truth

Don’t ignore your roof and gutter systems this winter. Keep an eye on the development of ice dams and frozen gutters so you can combat the outdoor obstacle before it becomes an indoor issue.

And don’t forget: if the situation becomes too slippery for you to handle, call a roofing professional.