Uh-Oh! Frozen Gutters -- What To Do?

chisueDecember 12, 2005

The man we hire to clean our gutters didn't show up this fall, then we had a very early onset of winter -- now have over a foot of snow and gutters with leaves and ice in them. DH and I got out there today on a ladder with hammer and pick and made some headway. This was the first day we could try, as it got slightly above freezing and the sun was out. This is a 10/12 pitch roof, if that matters.

What is your best advice? It will be impossible to clean the East and West gutters this way unless we have a really big thaw -- not predicted. I'm most concerned about the South and West gutters causing water to back up under the shingles and cause interior damage. (Melting from the sun during the day and freezing again at night.)

Any ideas? Remove gutters? (Like I could find someone to do that in 18-degree temps.) Lay heat cable in sections and clean as it melts? (What do you buy? Where do you get it?) Make holes in gutters to drain them? (Cheaper to replace gutters than fix water damage.)


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1.leave them. Wait for a warm day to thaw them. Water is not going to flow in them anyway. It is just going to freeze as it already has.
2. Connect a hose to your hot water tank and start at the down spout thawing with hot water.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 7:58PM
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Waiting is about the only thing you can do. Be careful hammering the ice in the gutters, it can cause dents and unsightly markings on the outside of the gutter (even if you are only hammering on the ice). After the ice is gone consider deicing cables.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 11:21PM
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There is one nice thing about this, if you could call it that. When you pull out sections of ice, they contain all of the leaves and mud and junk that were there when this whole thing started. So you will have clean gutters. You mention a 10/12 pitch roof. No matter what the pitch is, unless the roof is completely dry, you should only be doing this from a ladder, not by standing on the roof.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 8:23AM
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In order to create a breach in a potential ice dam, you can try this.

Get a pantyhose or nylon stocking leg, fill it with ice melt pelts and tie the end, making a "snake" of ice melt. Lay it perpendicular across the ice dam that has formed on the roof edge and leave it there. In a relatively short time it will melt a trough through the ice which will help the water to run off the roof.

I got the idea from someone on this board and it works pretty well. Beats the heck out of chipping away with a hammer and pick.

Good luck

    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 9:02AM
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sdello -- Thanks for the melting idea if we do get an ice dam!

Of course I can *hope* we will have some warm days where we can get the leaves out of the guters and allow the melted ice to flow out the downspouts. My concern is that we may get continued below-freezing days, but with strong sun. That is a recipe for ice dams and interior damage. We do have ice shield under the shingles, but that didn't help us at a previous house where we had interior damage to south-facing walls where there was guttering.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 10:59AM
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Probably too late now, but another suggestion is to invest in a snow roof rake. they are not very expensive, eliminating most of the snow before it starts to melt greatly reduces the potential for ice dam formation.

A lot easier than trying to clear ice from gutters.....

of course this is assuming that you do not have a 2 story house, then it is more difficult....


    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 12:14PM
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If your trying to de-ice the gutters your best bet is probably to put some cables in. Maybe the attached link will help you find them.

If you have aluminum gutters and downspouts they will always be colder than the roof so they will likley freeze any way.

Make sure you get the snow off and if there is a clear path over the top of the gutters any water should just run over them and off. It doesn't matter if the gutters are full or not.

My 0.02

Here is a link that might be useful: roof & gutter heating cables

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 1:27PM
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I second the roof rake. It has to be the best thing we bought in a long time. Although our gutters were clean we still have ice dams (We have an OLD house) and giving the roof a cleaning after large storms helps SO much.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 5:10PM
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Thank you all. I will try to rake the snow off the roof as high as we can reach. Alas, tonight it is snowing again!
I think I've seen these rakes in ads. Kind of "V" shaped?
Maybe a roofing company would sell them? I may have to improvise with broom handle, etc.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 6:35PM
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Here's what you want. I got mine at a local big box store. Might be tough to find if there been a lot of snow.

good luck

Here is a link that might be useful: snow rake

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 7:10PM
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I have successfully removed ice dams by running cold tap water on the gutters. It has to be done on a relatively warm day. Its a messy job, but there is no hammering or chipping involved, and little chance of damage to the gutters or the roof. Our house is two story, & it always dams up in the same spot, near the front door. I have to set up a tall ladder, and then set up the hose. I wear a heavy pair of neoprene gloves.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 11:00PM
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You should be able to find a snow roof rake at most home improvement stores. I got mine for a lot less than the internet price above.


    Bookmark   December 15, 2005 at 12:00PM
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halds, scryn, sdello -- THANK YOU! I had to call four hardware stores before I found one that had two roof rakes left. I hurried over there and bought one; struggled to assemble the thing -- saved by arrival of our DS and his strong hands. (And our dear grandson, 9 mos. for some diversion.)
The roof is raked! DH cleared more of the south-facing gutter too. We hit 35 degrees today, but now heading back to single digits.

I can't express how grateful we are for the help. We will certainly rest better tonight because of your willingness to share solutions. Thanks to all who read and responded!

    Bookmark   December 15, 2005 at 6:34PM
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OUr gutters are FULL of ice tonight and so I went to the hardware store and bought some of that heat "tape" you're talking about. Now, can I just lay it ON the gutters to MELT the ice? Supposed to warm up to perhaps 33 tomorrow and I need to work on it before the next storm comes. We ave a roof rake but didn't use it soon enough.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2011 at 9:43PM
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