Sub-freezing temperatures combined with sunny days form the most unlikely artwork of Mother Nature — icicles, which are always pretty in scenic pictures of winter wonderlands and of holidays past. But icicles have a dark side too, and can actually pose a real danger to people, pets and property.
Clogged gutters and downspouts generate excessive weight which can damage roofing and gutters. To prevent icicles from forming, keep your gutters clear of leaves, needles, and other debris. Clogged gutters can freeze the normal flow of water from your roof. The frozen, trapped runoff puts extra weight on the gutter fasteners, creates ice dams, and causes ice to form on sidewalks.
Protecting people, property and pets
When too much ice builds up, gutters become too heavy and can rip away, causing extensive and expensive damage to the property. Trying to chip the ice from the gutters is extremely dangerous and can create even greater damage. At that point, it’s best to enlist the support of a roofing professional to ensure that the gutters are cleared properly and safely.
Melting snow and ice can also get packed underneath roof shingles, causing water to seep into the cracks of the roof. A secondary problem is water damage — evidenced by the unsightly brown stains spotted on ceilings and/or walls.
Knocking off icicles is not recommended, and can easily cause damage to eaves, flashing and gutters. Once again, calling on the advice of a professional roofer can assist with proper removal, unless of course, the weather warms up and melts the icicles. But the gutters will still need gutting. When the warmer weather does arrive, you’ll need to attend to gutter maintenance swiftly to avoid leaking and other problems during spring rains.
Thousands injured from falls off ladders
Before you clean your gutters, however, make sure you review your ladder safety notes.
In the U.S., more than 500,000 people are treated each year just for falling off the ladder while trying to clean their gutters. Between 1990 and 2005, ladder injuries rose by 50%, and 97.3% of these injuries came from people who did not use a ladder occupationally.
Ladder Safety 101
- The ladder should extend at least 3 feet over the roofline.
- Always secure the ladder firmly on flat ground using leg levelers to reconcile uneven or soft ground.
- Check the ladder’s maximum load rating to ensure body weight and supplies do not exceed the maximum weight.
- Straight and adjustable ladders should have slip-resistant feet.
- Do not use a metal ladder near power lines or electrical equipment. Wood or fiberglass ladders are safer.
- Make sure all rung locks and spreader braces on the ladder are set before use.
- If possible, request a helper to hold the bottom of the ladder, or call for help if an emergency arises.
Hire a contractor
Getting on your roof yourself is not recommended if you’re not used to regularly climbing ladders at those heights. Not only are you risking serious injury, but you also risk causing further damage to your home. A trained professional has the tools and safety techniques to get up on your roof, clean and fix your gutters, and to also inspect it for other damage. Always ask to see their business license, proof of insurance, certifications, permanent business address and Better Business Bureau rating.
A reputable roofing contractor should be based locally and have a history of being in business in one location. If you have an insurance claim, your contractor should be able to help you determine what is covered, what is excluded, and how to prevent you from spending more than your deductible out-of-pocket.