No one wants ice dams encompassing their gutters in a frozen prison, wreaking havoc on the roof. Would heated gutter guards help?

First, let’s make clear what an ice dam is. Ice dams form when snow on your roof begins to melt on the underside — the side closest to the roof — and then slides down, covering the gutters and encasing them in ice.

This ice prevents melting snow on your roof from draining away, and it backs up, seeping under the shingles and into the roof deck, sowing the seeds of wood rot. Just as bad, your gutters can no longer carry away water, and it is left to pool around your home’s perimeter.


The culprit here is heat in your attic, warming the roof enough to start melting the snow. What is heat doing in your attic? We don’t know, but we’re sure it doesn’t belong there. Poor insulation, inadequate ventilation or other structural problems can be to blame.

One thing’s for sure — you won’t be rid of the problem until you’re rid of the cause.

Have a roofing contractor come and inspect your attic to see where the problems lie. Maybe your access door allows warm air to leak into your attic. Maybe your vents are blocked by birds’ nests or other material.

Even if everything is as it should be, relentless, heavy snows followed by periods of deep cold can cause ice dams to form.


If it’s an easy fix, like putting weatherstripping around the access door, you’re lucky. If you need all new insulation up there, it could get costly.

It’s when the fixes are expensive or when no one can really pinpoint the problem that homeowners turn to heated gutter guards.

Gutter guards are meant to save homeowners the trouble of having their gutters cleaned. And therein lies the problem.

Gutter guards don’t really make your gutters maintenance free. You still need them inspected and periodically cleaned. They’re also expensive — the cost is the same as several years’ worth of gutter cleanings. They’re heavy, with the potential to make your gutters sag. And they make perfect platforms for ice dams.

Gutter guard companies field lots of complaints about escalating problems with ice dams after installation, so they have come up with an answer: heated gutter guards. And it’s not a bad answer, it just might be a bit of overkill.


Many homeowners have installed heat tape or heat cables along their gutters to combat ice dams with marked success. It’s not an expensive product, and if you’re not up to climbing a ladder to your roof, you can easily get a professional to install it for you.

Heated gutter guards might work, but heat cables or tape are much cheaper to install, and they work just as well, if not better.

If ice dams have done a number on your gutters, call Renovation by BurbachWe can install a sturdy new gutter system with heat cables or tape, and you won’t have to turn to heated gutter guards to protect your roof.