Let it snow, ice and rain: What are the real causes of ice dams?
As the Vancouver Olympics wind down and snow continues to fall in many parts of the country, we still have time to talk about the affects of snow and ice on your gutter guards. Whether it’s a snow load weight concern, icicles forming on the edge of your gutters, or issues related to ice dams, homeowners face these problems across the US and Canada.
Snow and ice accumulating on top of gutter guards generally is not an issue that will jeopardize the function of your gutters or gutter guards. Icicles can be an issue along walkways and driveways because the dripping water off the icicles can form sheets of ice on the ground, so you’ll want to make sure to remove the icicles above doorways and salt the ground frequently in these areas until the icicles melt.
In the case of solid surface gutter guards, snow isn’t able to penetrate the gutters so as temperatures drop and the surface freezes, snow and ice will accumulate on top of the surface. In most cases, the inside of your gutters will remain relatively free of build-up since the guards are preventing most of the snow from entering into your gutters.
The weight load is shifted from resting within your gutters to the top of the gutter guards. Standing snow is subject to melting and freezing with temperature fluctuations. As the snow turns into water during the day, it works its way to the front of the gutter guard. Some of the water will make its way into the gutter and some of it will drip off the edge. As temperatures cool and day turns to night, the water refreezes and forms a layer of ice underneath the snow and creates icicles off the edge of the guards.
Micromesh screen gutter guards have the advantage of a larger opening into the gutters because the screens are made up of thousands of tiny holes that draw water into the gutters. Even with the advantage of more holes, as water freezes, it will create a layer of ice over the screen that will prevent water from entering into the gutters, and icicles can also form at the front edge of the gutters. As temperatures rise and ice melts, water will once again be able to enter into the gutters through the tiny holes, and icicles will disappear as quickly as they formed. Snow will melt off the gutter guards before it melts off the roof surface.
Snow loads can be an issue on gutters, especially if they are not properly attached to the fascia boards. Assuming your gutters are properly secured, then most gutter guards will be able to handle the weight of snow and ice.
Gutter guards that would be most susceptible to failure are lightweight plastic and metal screens from companies such as Amerimax, which supplies a variety of gutter guard products to big box retailers such as Lowe’s and Home Depot. The plastic screens are flimsy and commonly collapse under the weight of wet leaves and debris, so they don’t stand a chance in regions where heavy snow loads are an issue.
Professional grade gutter guards from manufacturers such as Gutter Helmet, LeafFilter, and GutterGlove will stand up to the weight of heavy snow and ice.
Gutter Helmet, which is a solid gutter cover with a reverse curve design is attached to the gutters with a series of heavy duty brackets that attach to the fascia boards and hold the covers in place.
LeafFilter is a micro mesh screen design that is held into place with the hidden hangers mounted within the gutters. Assuming the hangers have been properly installed and spaced along each gutter guard section, then the hidden hangers will carry the snow and ice loads on top of the screen.
GutterGlove Pro is another micro mesh screen gutter guard that is made of anodized aluminum. The product is very rigid and installs without the need for hangers or brackets. It is heavy duty enough to stand up to snow and ice loads without any problem.
If your concerns center around ice dams that form in gutters and can damage your home’s interior and exterior, read the following article from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst that explains the cause of this problem: “Preventing Ice Dams.”