How Can I Thaw a Frozen Gutter or Downspout?

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Subject: As far as not being concerned about them....

I do not agree with the statement made about "not to get concerned until it’s actually dripping on their heads inside,” he says. “As long as water’s not leaking into your house, the underlayment is doing its job.” I was a young homeowner when I purchased my house and did not understand the kind of damage ice dams could do. Apparently, (and quite obviously to me now after 20 years!), they had been happening for the life of my 100+ year old house before I purchased it. There's no way with the design of my house's roof that it wasn't happening. Over those 100 years, there was NO water leakage showing in the house... however, I noticed that the back door would close more easily at different times of the year. After I had the doosy of an ice dam back in 1993 after the big snowstorms that year and after those big snowstorms in 1991, there was all kinds of water damage where the ceiling met the back wall. When we decided to remove the plaster in the back wall to redecorate the kitchen, we found that the supporting beam under the back roof was ROTTEN and needed to be replaced along with the entire back wall. HOLY MOLY!!! Talk about work and expense!!!!! So, NO, I would NOT agree with the statement that there is nothing to worry about if you don't see something "now". That huge beam didn't rot between 1991 and 1993....LOTS of damage can be going on inside the wall without you seeing it. If your house is one of those that has experienced a roof dam, best thing economically is to get a roof de-icing cable and place it up there properly BEFORE winter comes each year. It doesn't cost a lot and is easy to do.


Subject: Melting Ice Dams

Yes, you can do it yourself by buying a roof de-icing cable. It takes at least two people. Of course it is best to head-off the ice dam if you can; you'll know it is coming when you have several inches of snow on the roof followed by a forecast of more inches of snow on the way followed by temperatures around freezing or above followed by evening or days of below freezing temperatures. I've been doing the following during the few odd years where the weather does this, ever since I had an ice dam that caused me to have to replace the back wall and ceiling of my kitchen the first year or two after I purchased the house!! I have a very long 2-story high roof that is steep and has no windows the entire back side which is north-facing. Fortunately, the back of the roof is only a few feet taller than I am, and I only need a regular painter's ladder to get to the roof easily. 1) Feed the end of the cable down and out of the downspout a few inches, then travel the cord back inside the entire length of the downspout. 2) Then lay the remainder of the cable up higher across the snow/ice on the roof being careful not to cross the wire over itself (will cause a short). This part is the hard part, because the cable naturally wants to just drop down and slide off the hardened snow. That is why you need one or two others up there on ladders to your left and right and a couple of brooms/ice choppers or some sort of light-weight long-handled tool to help to get the cable up a foot or two higher up on the snow on the roof. I usually press the broom down to make some indentations in the snow so that the cable will lay in those indentations, as trying to throw the cable up higher will end in it sliding down off the partially melted snow. 3) If your downspout is already frozen, then you'll need to pour a couple gallons of hot water into the downspout to melt the ice, so you can get that cable down it. 4) If your gutters are already frozen solid and the dam is backed up to the house roof, that is seriously going to be tougher. You can try laying the cable on the gutter to melt the ice and pray for warmer days and then keep moving the cable down into the gutter as the ice melt. Sometimes we resort to using a hammer (on the gutter ONLY) to pop the ice out. For us, with our cheap easy to bend gutters, this worked rather quick and easy. 5) Note: Roof de-icing cables only melt the snow/ice when the outside temperature is in the upper 20's or higher. The cable does not get so hot that it will set your roof on fire if you forget it; it simply gets nice and warm and melts the ice that it "touches". 6) Obviously, it is best to lay the roof cable in advance of winter storms and clip it into zig-zag placement the way instructions tell you, but when a winter like this catches you off guard and you don't have the money to hire a professional, this procedure might work for you.

Robert Nolin

Subject: ice dams solution

One remedy that is harmless and may help: fill old nylon stockings with calcium chloride, and lay them on the gutter. The salt heats up when it touches water. Remember to remove the stockings after the salt is used up.

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Two notes #1 20 feet is going to cost you more per foot that 100 feet.  #2 All prices are relative to Your market ie Omaha is less expensive than St Lious.  Here expect to pay on the 100 foot job $5 to $6 per foot of gutter (5" aluminum) plus the $4 to $5 a foot for the downspouts and $15 to $20 for soffit and facsia covering ie vinyl soffit panels and painted or vinyl clad aluminum covering the fascia.  In the trade a soffit & fascia job. 

Jim Casper Gutter & Gutter Cover contractor in Iowa & Nebraska

ps see my website for blogs on gutters & covers

Leaf Filter doesn't work, it makes things worse. They are terrible. We spent $3,400 and didn't have an existing problem but we thought we could avoid having our gutters cleaned every year as we have a lot of large trees.  Now the water pours over the top. Our 4' overhang over our back deck is like it's not even there, the deck is soaked to the slider. Our firewood supply under the deck which is where we've stored dry wood for 8 years, is soaked. The ground around our foundation is soaked. Every time it rains, water splashes clear to the siding. Our boots that we leave on our covered front porch are all ruined as the water pours over the top and soaks our front porch. DO NOT install these. We have requested that they remove them and refund our money. They're so bad that, even if they refuse to refund us, I want the product removed and I will eat the $3,400.
Unless you are constructing a French Drain (dry well filled with rock or debris and no exit) style system you use a non perforated system.  Cut the plastic flush on the angle where it daylights if the slope is great enough,  If you need it river rock can be used to construct a dry riverbed type drainage ditch out from the daylighted drain.  
Old Waterproofing Contractor & Gutter Contractor
Jim Casper