Winter is upon us here in Colorado! While this time of year brings with it plenty of fun snowsporting activities and beautiful natural landscapes, it is also a time when home and business owners begin to worry about the state of their roofs.

Here in the Centennial State, our weather can wreak havoc on roofs of all styles, no matter what type of protection they have. An integral part of any properly protected roof is the rain management system which is often composed of, at the least, gutters and downspouts.

It’s common to use gutter guards to help prevent the accumulation of leaves, twigs, and other debris inside gutters. Properly installed gutter guards can extend the time needed between gutter cleanings by an entire season or more.

But, there is an understandable concern about the formation of ice dams, leading many homeowners to believe that gutter guards actually do more harm than good.

So, do gutter guards actually cause ice dams, or is this a myth?

The roofing professionals at A-to-Z Roofing & Exteriors are here to help provide some clarity on the issue.

What Is Ice Damming? 

Ice damming is the term used to describe what happens when ice or snow melts on a roof and then refreezes along the roof edges.

The reason these ice formations are called ‘dams’ is because they can develop along the water channels inside roof gutters, effectively damming them and forcing water to flow over the gutter sides and down the exterior of the building.

Ice damming is a common problem here in Colorado. If left unchecked, ice damming can snowball (no pun intended) into bigger problems like water intrusion, damaged exterior siding, and even destroyed rain management hardware.

gutter ice dam

Most Common Causes of Ice Dams

Before we answer the question of whether or not gutter guards are specifically responsible for ice damming, let’s consider what we know to be the usual culprits for ice dam formations.

In Colorado, ice dams are most commonly caused by:

  • Poor roof insulation. When a roof is insufficiently insulated, heat will naturally escape the home at its highest point. When this happens, the snow on the roof is melted, and the resulting water runoff will often freeze before making its way down the gutters and away from the building.

    Well-insulated roofs experience far fewer cases of ice damming. While insulating a roof can be a costly and time-intensive home improvement project, it can go a long way in helping to protect secondary damage caused by ice damming in the winter months.
  • Stagnant attic air. Uncirculated attic air is a leading cause of ice dams. This is because pockets of warm air can build over time and not dissipate into the natural circulation of air elsewhere in the home.

    To remedy this, attic fans can be installed onto the roof, or other attic ventilation hardware can be added so that air is brought down from the attic and into the circulating air in the home. This helps to normalize attic air temperature and reduce the chances that rooftop snow will melt quicker than it would otherwise naturally melt.
  • Improperly sized or inefficient gutters. While this is less common, it does still happen: improperly sized gutters are installed onto roofs in order to save money. Gutters that are too narrow or otherwise mismatched to the roofs they’re installed on can be the principal reason for the formation of ice dams, especially after a heavy snowfall.

    Refitting the roof with the right gutter size or style is the only way to correct this problem.

The Final Verdict

Now that we’ve identified the most common causes of ice dams here in Colorado, let’s revisit our question: “Do gutter guards cause ice dams?”.

The answer is a resounding no. No, they don’t.

In fact, gutter guards are manufactured in a way that helps to reduce the formation of ice dams by helping to keep clogging debris from accumulating in the first place. That being said, it’s perfectly reasonable to say that gutter guards actually help to prevent ice dams!

A properly installed series of gutter guards will almost always provide more help than harm when it comes to protecting a roof in Colorado. If they’re doing their job, gutter guards will allow for the continuous, uninterrupted flow of water away from the roof.

Without gutter guards, there is a higher chance that leaves, stems, tree bark, and other organic material will build up and potentially stop the flow of water altogether. This is a recipe for an ice dam disaster!

Need help with a gutter or roof situation? Contact the pros at A-to-Z Roofing & Exteriors! We have the premium materials and expertise needed to provide you with a long-lasting, warranted roof protection solution you can rely on for decades.