We came across an article giving a basic overview of ice dams on About.com. One particular part of the article rang out in familiar tones:
Rows of icicles along the roof of a house look very pretty but they are often a symptom of an ice dam. An ice dam is caused by snow melting from the roof of a house, but then freezing in the gutters creating a dam. (our emphasis)
It’s a common misconception that gutters are somehow a required ingredient to the ice dam recipe. It’s understandable why this falsehood perpetuates: a gutter is a basin that will catch running water, it’s typically a metal-material so in cold it conducts low temperatures, and gutters live on the edge of the overhang, where ice dams form. –But it’s not explicitly why they form.
Why do Ice Dams form then?
The temperature in your attic should be as close to the temperature outside as possible, but when heat escapes your house, snow on your roof can melt. Even when your attic houses a higher temperature then it should (you have some home performance issues), when that melted water on your roof gets to the overhang, it can refreeze, because there’s no heat source directly below it.
See the following illustration, and also check out Our Definitive Guide on Ice Dams:
Looking at the illustration, you can see we aren’t even showing a gutter, and it’s definitely not uncommon for an ice dam to form in this situation.
Although gutters are not a requirement for an ice dam to form, and having no gutters is not an ice dam prevention solution, gutter ice can cause major damage, simply because of the way a gutter attaches to the overhang facia, and can collect a lot of weight in ice.
If you have a leak as the result of an ice dam, we can help there too.