Old Stone House

Gutter Love – An Electrifying Affair

October 19, 2008

Filed under: Ugly Addition @ 9:43 am

If you are a regular follower of this blog, you’ll know that we have had a number of issues with ice dams over the last few winters. Our first year in the house we didn’t have and problems, but since then we have had ‘water in the kitchen’ event every winter.

At first we thought the water was the result on backed-up gutters. But judicious cleaning ruled that out. We considered that the terrible soffits might have something to do with our wet walls, but that theory was disproved after replacing all the soffits (reinstating walls etc.) on the ugly addition.

It wasn’t until I ventured onto the roof in the dead of winter with a shovel and crowbar that I discovered a 6″-8″ slab of ice atop the roof…

Now, the reason for the ice is simple. The roof is not insulated properly, has a shallow pitch, and does not breath. Heat is trapped in the roof rafters (cathedral ceiling inside) which melts snow, refreezes as ice. The ice – a glacier at this point – rams its way up under the shingles, melts, and ruins out lives.

The fix is actually quite simple. Tear off the roof.

I did the estimates this summer, and the total repair cost (materials) would be less then $800. This includes re-sheeting some areas, adding proper venting, ice-shield, and new shingles. Without a doubt, this would remedy the problem, but wasn’t a solution that we had time/money/weather to implement this summer. So, we’ve decided on the only other possible solution – gutter wires.

For those of you in more southerly climates who are unfamiliar with the practice of electrifying eaves-troughs, the basic premise is that you install thermal wiring (much like an electric blanket) on the roof which melts the ice and snow. The trick is to install the wires in such a way as to help the melt water to escape, rather then created melted pockets.

As you can see in the photos, the valley has been tarred, re-tarred and tarred again in the past (not by me) in an effort to stop water from penetrating the house. I know this to be a problem zone, so I installed a generous compliment of wires to keep the valley clean. I also installed the wires along the gutter in a rather tight pattern. I don’t want to give the ice any opportunity to wreak havoc.

Sunlight was dwindling when I shot these images so the installation is incomplete. I also didn’t bother to include and image showing how the wires travel inside the down pipe. I installed 120′ of thermal wire for a 16′ wide area of roof. Likely overkill. I don’t care.

On a side note – notice the broom. I swept the roof clean before starting work. 1 hour later, you can see the accumulation of leaves. Needless to say, we clean our gutters often.

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