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How Gutter Guards Make Ice Dams Tougher to Remove

Gutter guards – you know, those gutter covers that starving phone salesmen try to sell you every autumn.

They’re meant to keep out leaves, pine needles, and other flotsam.  But they can also keep out your friendly neighborhood ice dam guy when it’s time to remove that giant ice dam from your overhang.

Some gutter guards work better than others, and in many cases they might be a wise investment.  Or they may be more hassle than they’re worth.

It’s not that gutters and/or gutter guards cause ice dams.  They don’t (as I’ve written).  But if the combination of poor attic insulation, poor ventilation, and heavy snow causes an ice dam – as so often happens – you may rue the day you gave your gutters a hat.

Gutters don’t work quite the same in the winter. Water gets trapped and doesn’t just merrily roll into to your downspouts the same way it does in the warmer months.  The blockage means ice explodes out of your gutters like Jiffy Pop (well, at least when you can actually get that stuff to pop).  We deal with this every winter. We have to take lots of extra time to get rid of that ice so we can get to the rest of the ice on the roof.

That’s what happens without gutter guards.  Now, imagine all that ice getting trapped under and over the guard. That’s a lot of ice we’ll have trouble reaching.

When the gutters are open, we can usually just hit them with a little steam, reach right in there, and toss out ice chunks as we work on the rest of the roof.  But we can’t do that if there’s a gutter guard in the way.  We can no longer remove large chunks of ice by hand, and instead must melt all the ice from inside your gutters by squirting steam and water through a tiny opening between your gutter and leaf guard. It’s a very time consuming process and takes much longer.  Gutter guards of any kind can turn an already-tough job into the Big Dig.

If you live in a home that’s prone to getting ice dams, I’d think twice about getting gutter guards.  Instead, consider cleaning your gutters twice a year, or pay a gutter guy to do it.  I can guarantee you that either of those is a cheaper option than needing to pay an ice dam removal company for the extra time it will take to wrestle with your gutter guards while removing your ice dams.

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