Downspouts direct the runoff water away from your roof and towards the drainage system, protecting your property from the dangers of water damage. However, frozen downspouts will be clogged by ice, and they won’t be able to do their job.
Having frozen downspouts is normal, but it’s not something you should ignore. As a matter of fact, it should be part of your maintenance routine to guarantee that your gutter system will work properly.
So, why do downspouts freeze? What should you do with frozen downspouts?
You’ll find the answers to these questions in our article, so keep reading.
When the temperature drops, some of the settled water that collects at the elbow of your downspouts can freeze. Your downspouts can also freeze if they’re blocked by snow.
Unfortunately, the ice buildup will increase, filling the pipes and traveling up to the gutter. It can damage the structure of your gutter and downspout, and it will prevent the runoff water from pooling away from your property.
Moreover, the ice and snow will add significant weight to your gutter system and roofing, causing damage in the long run. So, if you don’t fix frozen downspouts, you’ll have to deal with the following.
- Water will pool on top of your roof, leading to leaks.
- Ice and snow will collect on your roof, causing substantial damage.
- The excess weight can pull the gutter and downspouts away from your roof, breaking the structure and damaging its material.
Your downspouts don’t have to freeze even if you live in a sub-zero climate. As a matter of fact, there are several methods to help maintain your downspouts during the cold season, guaranteeing that they will function efficiently throughout winter.
Debris in your downspouts might not seem like a severe problem in the warm season because the water can push through and pass around any blockages.
However, when the temperature drops, the water turns into ice and combines with any debris found in your downspouts to create large masses. These masses will block the system and cause the water and snow to pool on your roof.
This is why cleaning your downspouts of leaves, pine needles, feathers, dirt, and any other materials that might collect in them is crucial.
You can use a cleaning wand to remove all the blockages, and the best time to do this is after the fall. All the tree leaves would have fallen off by this time, so you can keep your downspouts clear.
Snow that collects around the bottom exit of your downspouts can also affect their function. Water might pass through the downspout only to be blocked by the snow.
The runoff water won’t be able to pass through. Instead, it will collect in your downspouts and freeze.
During winter, it’s essential to clear the bottom mouth of your downspouts regularly to allow water to pass through. You might have to do this more frequently if it snows heavily in your area.
In this method, you’ll tackle the snow from the top by raking the roof and removing the snow that builds up. You don’t have to use a ladder, which can be dangerous, especially if you’re alone.
Instead, you can use a long-handle rake to remove the snow that collects on top of your roof, clogs your gutters, and travels down the downspouts to cause clogging.
Rakes are designed to remove debris like leaves without causing any damage to your gutters.
Using them regularly exposes the roof to the sun’s rays, which can warm it up a little. This will prevent more snow from collecting and blocking your gutter system.
This method, known as the stocking method, involves using calcium chloride to melt the snow and ice. This is the same chemical compound that people use to clear the snow from streets and sidewalks, so you can use it to remove any frozen blockages from your downspouts.
Calcium chloride can erode your gutters and stain the shingles, so you shouldn’t pour it directly on or inside the downspouts.
Instead, you can fill socks with calcium chloride and lay them on top of the clogged gutters. Use as many socks as you need to line the length of the gutters to help melt the ice and allow the water to pass through.
Using boiling water can help clear any blockages by melting the trapped ice. Moreover, the hot temperature will slightly expand the metal, so the blockage can pass through.
You can use a ladder and pour some hot or boiling water through the downspout from the top. The water will pass through and melt any blockages.
However, this method can be quite dangerous because you might slip and fall.
You can try the tapping method if you don’t want to use a ladder.
For this method, you’ll use a piece of wood to tap on the outside of the downspout and pay attention to the sound. This will allow you to locate the blockage.
If it sounds hollow, then it’s clear. Yet, if it sounds like it’s blocked, you can pour boiling water on the outside of the downspout.
If you don’t have gutter guards, then it’s a good idea to install them to prevent potential blockages. Gutter guards block debris from getting into your downspouts, lowering the risk of clogging.
They can block large chunks of ice and snow that fill your downspouts and freeze the runoff water.
In addition, these guards will keep your gutters clean even during the warm season, as they block leaves, rocks, and all types of debris.
Different types of gutter guards are available on the market, so make sure you choose a high-quality type to withstand the elements. Some guards have a heating element to help melt any snow or ice that might clog your downspouts.
Heating tape is usually used to heat and protect plumbing pipes from being frozen. Yet, you can also use it to keep your downspouts functioning.
This isn’t an adhesive tape but an electric cable that connects to a thermostat. Most types of tape are self-regulating, adjusting their temperature based on the weather conditions.
So, you won’t have to do anything, as the tape will warm your downspouts up to prevent water from freezing and clogging them.
You can wrap the tape around areas where blockages usually happen to prevent them from occurring in the future. Nevertheless, some homeowners keep the tape installed all winter to avoid blockage issues.
Dealing with frozen and blocked downspouts isn’t always easy. So, you might want to consider hiring a professional to inspect them, clear any blockages, and restore their functions.
As a homeowner, you should also be aware of the mistakes you must avoid if your downspouts are frozen.
- Climbing a ladder alone to pour hot water on top of the gutters is extremely dangerous as you might easily slip.
- Using a sharp object to clear any blockages that might be present inside your downspouts will damage the whole system.
- Avoid using a hammer to hit the outside of your downspouts, as you might break them.
Downspouts can freeze when they’re full of debris as the water collects and freezes to form blockages. Leaving snow to block the bottom mouth of your downspouts can also create a blockage that prevents the runoff water from passing through.
The best way to deal with frozen downspouts is to clean them regularly, as this will guarantee that they stay functional. You can rake the roof to remove snow or clear the snow that collects around the bottom mouth.
Using boiling water or heating tape will also work because the temperature will melt the ice. Moreover, it will help expand the metal to allow any clogged blockages to pass through.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
If you want more backyard tips including recipes, how-tos and more, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel