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Technical Papers

Icicles and Wet Basements

Wednesday, February 15th, 2023 by Aaron Stull

Icicles and Wet Basements - Image 1Icicles are a common sight during the winter months. You will see them hanging from roofs, trees, and other outdoor structures. These beautiful formations are created when water drips down from a surface and freezes as it reaches the cold air. Gutters, in particular, are prone to icicle formation due to their location and function. In this article, we will explore why icicles form on gutters - and how mainly their weight - can cause the gutters to become misaligned and malfunction, which can lead to wet basements during spring rains.

Gutters are designed to channel rainwater away from the roof and foundation of a building. They are usually made of metal or plastic and are attached to the edge of the roof. Water flows down the roof and into the gutters, which then direct it to downspouts and away from the building. During the winter months, when temperatures drop below freezing, the water in the gutters can turn into ice.

Icicles form on gutters when water drips down from the roof and freezes before it reaches the downspout. The process of icicle formation starts with snow or ice melting on the roof due to the sun's warmth or the heat from the building. The water then flows down the roof and into the gutters. If the temperature remains below freezing, the water in the gutters will freeze, and icicles will start to form. As the process repeats, the icicles grow in size, creating a beautiful but heavy display of ice hanging off the side of the gutter.  Many people don’t consider the large amount of water weight this creates.

The weight of the icicles can cause the gutters to become misaligned and malfunction. Gutters are designed to handle the weight of rainwater, but the weight of icicles can be too much for them to handle. Over time, the weight of the icicles can cause the gutters to bend or pull away from the roof. This can lead to liquid water missing the gutter system and fall down to the ground, causing seepage into the building's foundation. This can lead to dampness and potential water damage. The weight of the icicles can also cause the gutters to detach from the roof, creating a safety hazard.

As winter turns into spring, the icicles will eventually melt, leaving behind damage in the form of misaligned or damaged gutters. This can be a problem when the spring rains arrive. The gutters may not be able to handle the water flow properly, causing the water to overflow and pool around the building's foundation. This can lead to wet basements, which can be expensive to repair and may also cause health problems due to mold and mildew growth. This is not good.

To prevent icicle formation on gutters, homeowners can take a few steps. The first is to ensure that the gutters are clean and free of debris. Leaves, twigs, and other debris can clog the gutters, leading to water backup and potential ice formation. Homeowners can use a ladder to climb up and clean out the gutters, or they can hire a professional to do it for them.

Another step is to install gutter guards. These devices are designed to prevent debris from entering the gutters while still allowing water to flow freely. They can be made of various materials, including mesh, foam, or brushes. Gutter guards can help reduce the frequency of gutter cleaning and prevent ice formation by allowing water to flow more freely.

Heating cables can also be installed to prevent icicle formation. These cables are placed on the roof and in the gutters and are designed to keep the temperature above freezing. This prevents the water from freezing and forming icicles. Heating cables can be a good solution for homeowners who experience frequent icicle formation.

In conclusion, icicles on gutters can be a beautiful sight, but they can also be a hazard. The weight of the icicles can cause gutters to become misaligned and malfunction, leading to wet basements during spring rains.

Do you have a wet basement? Call (800) 771-3244 or CLICK here and we can provide you free inspection.

About the author
Aaron Stull is a second generation foundation repair specialist from the greater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area.

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