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Ice chopping damage to gutter (C) Daniel Friedman Guide to Snow & Ice Damage to Roof Gutters

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This article describes gutter problems caused by snow and ice and we suggest some remedies where snow or ice tend to freeze in gutters or push gutters off of the building. This article series discusses how to choose, install, diagnose & maintain roof gutters & downspouts, & roof drainage systems to prevent building leaks and water entry.



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Snow & Ice Damage to Building Gutters

The holes in the aluminum gutter shown below (left) were caused by someone chopping ice at the roof eaves - a nice clue that the building has a problem with ice dams.

Ice chopping damage to gutter (C) Daniel Friedman

Especially in climates of extensive snow fall and freezing weather, snow and ice sliding down roofs can make it very difficult to keep gutters on a building.

Ice chopping damage to gutter (C) Daniel Friedman

In the New England states of the U.S. we often see that homeowners have simply given up any hope of keeping their gutters in place. Instead these homes employ metal flashing (against ice dam leaks) at the building eaves.

Roof eaves treatment to avoid gutter problems (C) D Friedman

But unless these same homeowners are meticulous about surface grading around these buildings, basement or crawl space water entry is likely to be a problem, especially in wet, non-freezing weather or when it rains before the ground has frozen.

Watch out: on buildings with no roof drainage system to conduct water away from the building in areas of heavy ice and snow, snow (fallen off of the roof or shoveled from nearby walks) can form a "snow dam" parallel to the building foundation. During warming weather melting snow or ice on the building roof may drain behind the snow dam to collect right at the building foundation, inviting basement or crawl space flooding.

Other measures to keep water out of such basements are illustrated below (just ignore the downspout in this sketch).

Foundation Waterproofing & Footing Drains

Gutter and Downspout Details (C) Carson Dunlop Associates

buildings built to typical construction standards and practices are not "boats" - that is, the foundation is not water tight. Instead we rely on keeping water away from the foundation walls.

But for problem sites, wet soil sites, etc., it may be necessary to take extra steps to try to make the building foundation more waterproof or "boat-like".

The illustration demonstrates an extra building waterproofing step taken in areas of wet soils: a geotextile or foundation drainage mat is placed against the building foundation wall and carried down to the gravel-covered footing drain system.

Watch out: this system will not work unless the footing drain system itself is intact and draining properly.

Watch out: it is still necessary to extend the roof drainage system downspouts well away from the soil backfill and onto ground that drains away from the structure (as shown) lest we overload and clog the foundation waterproofing system.

Sketch courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates.

Roof Gutter or Eaves Trough Inspection & Repair Articles

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Continue reading at HEAT TAPES & CABLES for ROOF ICE DAMS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

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