Informational Guide

Do Gutter Guards Cause Ice Dams?

Do gutter guards cause ice dams? We answer the question & talk about the things you can do to prevent ice dams in the first place.

by Holly Curell

Icicles might look pretty on your roof, but they can lead to ice dams - ridges of solid, dense ice - which can cause major damage to your gutters. 

It’s in your best interest to deal with ice dams quickly. So we put together this article on how to prevent ice dams and also answer the question, do gutter guards cause ice dams or not? 

As you might expect, ice dams are caused by frozen standing water in your gutters. Outside temperature, snow cover, and heat from your house can all contribute to the formation of ice dams in your gutters.

As snow on top of the gutters melts, it falls down and reaches a spot that is below freezing. The water then forms an ice dam.  

  • Thermal bridging through walls
    Your house might lose heat through thermal bridging, leaving pockets near the gutters that are very cold. The heat melts snow, then the water freezes in these pockets, forming ice dams. 
  • Air leakage through walls
    Similarly, ice dams can be caused by your home leaking air through the walls, forming pockets of low temperatures that will freeze water. 
  • Ventilation equipment
    Faulty ventilation in your roof and attic can cause excessively low temperatures in the winter, leading to cold spots near the gutters that can form ice dams. 
  • Pot lights
    Pot lights produce a lot of heat but are usually not insulated properly, so they can create thermal pockets of low temperatures, which can lead to ice dams. 
  • Snow
    Snow is the main culprit of ice dams and can get lodged in gutters. Snow in your gutters can compress and turn into dense ice under very cold conditions. 
  • Sun and wind
    The sun and wind can cause thermal differences near your roof, which can cause the conditions that form ice dams. These factors are essentially unavoidable with a house. 
What Causes Ice Dams

Do Gutter Guards Cause Ice Dams? 

Short answer, no. Gutter guards do not cause ice dams. Gutter guards are a common solution to keep leaves out of gutters, but they do not cause ice dams. The main thing that causes ice dams is a temperature differential around your roof.

Temperature differentials create pockets of cold space. Water seeps into these cold spaces and freezes. Since the gutter line is usually below the roofline, the temperature there is lower than around the other parts of the roof. The result is that gutters are a prime place for ice dams to form.  

However, gutters with clogged vents can contribute to ice dams. The material in gutters retains water, so it does not naturally drain out. Ice dams can damage gutter guards by pressing on the leaf protection brackets.  

See Related Article: Are Gutter Guards Worth The Investment? 

Do Gutter Guards Cause Ice Dams

How Can You Prevent Ice Dams? 

Ventilation

Poor ventilation can cause ice dams. Poor ventilation makes the attic get too hot and creates temperature differentials. Fixing ventilation ensures your attic has cool air circulating through it, so the snow doesn't melt and then refreeze in your gutters. 

Insulation

Similarly, proper insulation can keep heat from escaping your attic and melting snow on your roof. Ventilation ensures your attic remains a constant temperature and does not create heat differences on your roof. 

Eliminating attic heat sources

Heat sources in your attic like a heater or gas stove can also contribute to ice dams by melting snow on the roof. Removing the potential heat sources can reduce the formation of ice dams. 

Electric heat cables

You can also install electric heat cables to melt ice in channels. Heat cables, also called heat coils or deicing cables, require an installation process, so they may not be the best choice for every homeowner. 


How to Remove Ice Dams in Your Gutters 

We do not recommend hacking away at ice dams with a shovel or pickaxe, as this can damage your gutters or roofing tiles. Instead, try to melt the ice. Here is a simple method to get rid of ice dams. You will need: 

  • Pantyhose (yes, seriously) 
  • Calcium chloride 
  • Ladder 
  • String or wire 
  1. 1
    First, fill the pantyhose or long socks with calcium chloride. CaCl is used to melt ice on driveways.  
  2. 2
    Position the socks over the dam. 
  3. 3
    Arrange the socks so they lie evenly against the thickest parts of the ice dams. 
  4. 4
    Attach a string or a wire to the pantyhose to secure them to the roof. 
  5. 5
    Remove the pantyhose once the ice dams have sufficiently melted.  

Make sure you do not use rock salt instead of calcium chloride as it can damage your shingles and vegetation in your yard.  


People also Ask (FAQs)

Can ice dams damage your gutter guards? 

Yes, ice dams can put mechanical stress on gutter guards and damage them.  

Is ice dam damage covered by insurance? 

Some homeowners' policies have coverage for water damage or bursts due to ice dams.  

What can you put on your roof to melt ice? 

The best material to melt ice on your roof is calcium chloride. You can buy CaCl at your local hardware store.  

Do ice dams cause permanent damage? 

Yes, ice dams can cause permanent damage to your roof or your walls if left uncared for.  


Conclusion

Ice dams can be a nuisance, so you should take care of them as quickly as possible when they arise. Make sure your home is ventilated and insulated to protect against the formation of ice dams.  

Holly Curell is the editor extraordinaire for Plumbing Lab. Having grown up in Michigan, Holly has spent time living in New York, Virginia, & currently North Carolina, where she lives with her husband & family. Holly loves DIY & has years of experience with at-home plumbing problems that arise from having 3 kids & living in colder climates. When she's not writing about her plumbing knowledge, Holly enjoys reading, hiking & relaxing with family.

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