Gutter Guards and Ice Dams

guards in a harsh winter

 Notes from a Harsh Winter

Like several other parts of the country, it was a particularly bad winter in the Mid-Atlantic States where we manufacture MasterShield Gutter Protection. While an inconvenience in many ways, it did give us a real world demonstration related to a video we shot this past fall. It also highlighted some common issues regarding gutter guards and  ice dams.

In our fall video, we demonstrated MasterShield’s inherent strength by taking a 20 pound weight and applying it to a one-foot section of installed product. We didn’t use a new piece of MasterShield, but asked someone who had the system installed about five years ago if we could use their home for the test. Our goal was to mimic snow or any other heavy load on the product to see how it performed. Our research showed that wet snow can weigh about five pounds per cubic foot. Our 20 pound test was meant to simulate about four feet of snow and the conditions for gutter guard ice damming.

The test was worthwhile, and demonstrated how strong the product is once installed. It proved the bends we put in the product add significant strength to it. We also took the opportunity to discuss “the memory of metal”; the fact that once the weight was removed MasterShield literally snapped back to its original place, mirroring the pitch of the roof. At one point we literally bounced the weight on the product to simulate even more pressure. No matter what we tried (we’ll save another test we did for a different post) we made no impact on the product to cause it to permanently sag or bow in any way.

Gutter Guards and Ice Dams – The Real World

This past winter, with the weekly snowfalls we were getting, we just had to go back and capture the real thing: the same house in the snow. We tramped through more than two feet of it to get back to the same spot we used in the fall and looked at the system covered with over a foot of snow. We even scraped off some of it to observe the filter. While we noted that the MasterShield itself wasn’t impacted in the least with the snow coverage, we did make some other observations that only real snow conditions could afford us.

First, ambient temperature around the gutter guard makes a difference. The section we initially filmed was on a free standing garage and the air in the garage, the soffit and around the gutter guard itself was very similar. While a bit of crusty snow covered the MasterShield filter itself, the gutter below remained empty and hollow. Not a single icicle had formed on the entire gutter run either.

Behind us was the main house. Here, the conditions were different. On most of the gutters there were no icicles or ice build up. In one or two other places, however, in particular by the back door, there were our gutters guards and ice dams.  It was clear that this wasn’t a problem specific to having MasterShield or any other leaf guard on the gutters, but the fact that this house was loosing heat in certain places. It was the heat loss that was contributing to the ice forming on the system. Icicles and ice dams are generally a function of a home’s insulation and ventilation rather than whether it has a gutter protection system. If you have hot spots in your attic or soffits, your gutter guard will likely bring attention to those areas and give you an opportunity to note the spot that will need better insulation or ventilation. Your local MasterShield dealer may even be able to help you address the issue. Most importantly, your gutter guard probably isn’t causing ice damming, but may help you identify problems you weren’t aware of.

For additional information on Gutter Guards and Ice Dams, CLICK HERE.