To keep your gutters from freezing during the winter months, install gutter guards or clean your uncovered gutters. This will prevent debris blockages that lead to frozen gutters. You can also sprinkle a safe de-icer, such as Magnesium Chloride, in your gutters to prevent ice formation. For an automatic de-icing solution, add heating elements that keep your gutters from freezing.
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What Causes Gutters to Freeze?
Gutters often freeze when debris or blockage prevents drainage. Trapped snow and ice can’t exit even when it thaws, so it refreezes and builds up a thick layer. However, sometimes the elements are against you. In regions with heavy winter snow, sleet, and freezing rain, even clean gutters can freeze.
- A blockage that causes snow and ice to collect
- Natural weather patterns of snow and freezing rain.
Both debris-caused and natural causes of frozen gutters can be prevented. With the right tactics, you can keep your gutters ice-free throughout the winter without issue.
What are the Dangers of Frozen Gutters?
Frozen gutters are put under immense strain. The weight of solid ice, compacted snow, and hanging icicles can tear your gutters loose from your home, necessitating costly repairs. Ice-clogged gutters also cause backups that lead to water infiltration and roof leaks.
- Damages or destroys gutters.
- Causes roof leaks.
Rather than deal with expensive gutter repairs, or be forced to contend with a leaky roof, it’s best to take the right steps to keep gutters free of ice.
5 Ways to Stop Gutters from Freezing This Winter
No one wants to spend their winter outside, trying to de-ice gutters when you’d rather be warm indoors. The methods below are safe and effective ways to prevent your gutters from freezing, so you can relax this winter.
Install Gutter Guards
The best way to make sure your gutters and downspouts don’t freeze due to blockages is by preventing debris from entering your gutters. A metal gutter guard with perforations is the best way to filter out debris and prevent gutter clogs. They also work as a shield, preventing snowfall from filling the gutters and compacting.
- Use this gutter guard to block debris, snow, and ice from entering your gutters.
- Some gutter guards include heating elements to thaw built-up snow and ice.
There are a few companies that install heated gutter guards that prevent snow and ice buildup. These serve a dual purpose by both keeping your gutter’s blockage free and keeping ice from forming there.
Clean Your Gutters
A fall gutter cleaning is essential to keep your gutters from clogging once the snow begins to fall. Often, snow will compress and melt to exit clean gutters. However, if leaves, sticks, pine needles, or acorns are blocking your gutters, the snowmelt may re-freeze into solid ice. This is what leads to frozen gutters.
- Clean gutters and downspouts in fall, once leaves have mostly stopped falling.
- Use this gutter cleaning tool to clean gutters without using a ladder.
- Inspect gutters after cleaning to make sure they are free of debris.
Make sure that your downspouts are including in your cleaning. Frozen downspouts are most commonly caused by debris blockage, and if your downspout doesn’t drain properly your entire gutter is likely to freeze solid.
Use a Magnesium Chloride De-icer
Never use rock salt or similar de-icers in your gutter. All forms of salt—table salt, Epsom salt, and sea salt—are corrosive to metal. Instead, pour a thin layer of Magnesium Chloride de-icer in your gutters in the fall to prevent ice from forming. This de-icer not only works at much lower temperatures than rock salt, but the runoff is also safe for your gutters, plants, and pets, while most other de-icers are not.
- Use this Magnesium Chloride de-icer that is safe for gutters, plants, and pets.
- Magnesium chloride prevents ice at temperatures down to -10℉ (-23℃). Salt is ineffective below 15℉ (-10℃).
- Avoid salt and Calcium Chloride de-icers that corrode metal gutters and can be harmful to plants and your pet’s feet.
It’s important to keep in mind that some of the de-icer you sprinkle in your gutters will run out of your downspouts. If this runoff water contains a toxic de-icer, like rock salt, it can kill plants and grass or injure your pets’ paws.
Remove Snow From Your Roof
If left on your roof, light and fluffy snow will turn compact and heavy, eventually compressing into an ice-like state that can block and freeze gutters. To combat this, use a long-handled snow rake to pull snow off your roof. This will prevent snow and ice buildup in your gutters.
- Use this roof rake to pull snow off your roof and gutters.
- Remove snow soon after it falls to prevent snow from compacting and refreezing.
- Add roof-cleaning to your snow shoveling routine.
If your roof is prone to snow buildup, add a few minutes to your snow shoveling routine to clear the roof. This method is worth the effort to prevent roof leaks and gutter damage. Just clear the roof before shoveling your path, otherwise, you might have some rework on your hands.
Heat Your Gutters
To prevent or thaw ice, one of the most effective methods is to install a heating cable in your gutter. These cables line your gutter and downspouts. Once you turn them on, they provide heat that melts ice or prevents gutters from freezing altogether.
- This heating cable is great for gutters.
- Line gutters with cable and run a U-shaped loop of cable down your downspouts to keep your whole system ice-free.
This system can be installed yourself and works wonders. It’s an effective method whether you turn the cable on during a heavy snowstorm or need to clear the ice and snow from your gutters after they’ve frozen solid.
What Not to Do to When Gutters Freeze
Avoid using any sort of salt or Sodium Chloride product in your gutters. Sodium Chloride is simply salt, and it is what rock salt and table salt are both made of. It corrodes metal and the runoff both kills plants and can harm your pet’s paws. The same goes for Calcium Chloride, which is extremely corrosive to metal.
- Sodium Chloride (rock salt): All forms of sodium chloride are corrosive to gutters and the runoff is dangerous. Not only that, but salt is ineffective at temperatures below 15℉ (-10℃).
- Calcium chloride: This substance is also corrosive to metal. Magnesium Chloride is the least corrosive and therefore safest for metal gutters.
- Break up ice by force: Using a hammer or other tool to attempt to break up the ice in frozen gutters is a surefire way to damage your gutters. It’s better to leave ice alone than to try this.
Solid ice is extremely hard and may not break easily. If you’re tempted to use a hammer or other tool to clear frozen gutters by force during winter weather, refrain. You may tear your gutters loose from your house.
What is the Best Way to Keep Gutters from Freezing?
If your gutters freeze solid in winter, they may rip free from your house or cause a roof leak. In order to prevent frozen gutters and the damage they cause:
- Install gutter guards that prevent debris blockages, as well as prevent snow and ice buildup.
- Clean your gutters in the fall, to reduce the chance of frozen blockages.
- Sprinkle a Magnesium Chloride de-icer in your gutters.
- Regularly remove snow from your roof before it compacts and refreezes.
- Use a heating cable to thaw your gutters.
These safe methods work to keep your gutter ice-free regardless of temperature. By using these tactics, you will prevent water damage to your home and skate through the icy winter without any gutter-related issues.