If you live in an area where it gets below zero more often, then you probably know what it feels like to wake up and find your downspout frozen.
As frustrating as it might be, there’s always a way to avoid such a problem. Additionally, determining the cause of a frozen downspout is the first step to fixing the issue.
In this article, you’ll learn how to deal with a frozen downspout. Furthermore, I’ll tell you all the possible causes of it, and what to do to avoid it.
There are a couple of possible causes for downspouts freezing, which are:
Clogged downspouts are more susceptible to freezing. That’s because the accumulated leaves and debris inside obstruct the water drainage.
Consequently, the water inside the downspout freezes as the temperature drops. This happens especially at the elbows where water is more likely to settle.
Another reason for a frozen downspout is the snow building up on the ground. This blocks its bottom opening, preventing the water from draining. As a result, the water collects and freezes.
Furthermore, snow piling up inside the gutter from the top opening is another cause for frozen downspouts.
In this case, the snow accumulates inside the gutter. So, when it continues to be too cold for too long, the snow solidifies before it can melt, causing the downspout to freeze.
When the water inside the downspouts freezes, it can cause ice buildup in the gutter. This, in turn, weighs down the gutter and downspout pipes causing them to strain the whole system.
Heavy gutters can tear loose and seriously damage your house. Furthermore, blocked downspouts cause snow to accumulate on your roof, which increases the chances of leaks.
Downspouts protect your home by directing water away from it. That’s why you should never let them get frozen.
Furthermore, you have to act fast toward frozen downspouts, especially when the weather isn’t getting better any time soon.
How to Deal With Frozen Downspouts
First and most importantly, you should never try to hit the pipes with a hammer or axe. As tempting as it might be, this can seriously damage your drainage system as well as the roof.
In fact, most spring repairs are of damages resulting from homeowners trying to break the ice inside the gutter loose. So, what to do when your downspouts freeze?
Here are a few tips to try:
This is the simplest way to deal with the situation. You just need to wait it out and do nothing in order to avoid damaging the gutter system.
That’s especially effective if the temperature in your area is expected to rise above freezing levels. If so, waiting for the ice to melt is the safest option you have.
Sometimes, the cause of this issue may be a buildup of snow at the bottom opening of the downspout.
As a result, the pipes can just get blocked by a chunk of snow, and not because of frozen water inside.
So, it’s better to check the downspout and clear any snow piling up at the end of it using a shovel.
If the weather isn’t getting any better any time soon, then dealing with the issue is highly recommended.
When you think about melting ice, the first thing that pops to mind is warm water, especially with minor ice buildups.
So, if you’re comfortable using a ladder, get up there and pour the water down the top opening of the downspout.
What’s more, attaching a hose to the hot water tap and using it is also a great idea to fix the issue.
All in all, this should be more than sufficient to thaw the ice and clear the gutter system.
Another amazing idea to thaw the ice buildup inside your house’s downspouts is to heat the outside of the pipes where the ice has accumulated.
This is especially effective with metal downspouts. Doing so helps the ice inside melt, which allows the running water to flow freely.
You can do that by running hot water along the outside part of the downspouts. If this isn’t feasible, using a hair dryer on the highest setting or a heat gun does the trick too.
That said, avoid directing heat at the bottom opening of the downspout. That’s because if the ice suddenly breaks loose, it may cause the water to gush out.
This could be life-threatening, as it poses an electrocution hazard. So, the best way is to start near the bottom of the downspout and work your way up.
What Not to Do Dealing With Frozen Downspouts
It’s just as crucial to know what not to do as it is to know what to do. That’s especially when dealing with something that jeopardizes your house’s safety.
Aside from not hitting hard on the downspout pipes, you should never pour salt directly over the ice. This is one of the most common misconceptions, and it’s not safe to do.
Although, in some cases, salt does help melt ice, the disadvantages of doing so furtherly exceed the advantages.
That’s because salt is a harsh substance. Over time, it can cause corrosion to your gutter system.
Even if you use salt-filled stockings, it can be a time-consuming process. Though it might work for minor freezing issues, it’s not the greatest solution for a large-scale ice problem.
Furthermore, using de-icing products can have the same damaging effects on your gutter as salt does.
Not to mention how harmful these liquids could be for your plants and lawn when they run off over them.
I think we could all agree that it’s better to prevent the issue from happening than have to deal with the consequences.
Fortunately, there are a few precautions that may greatly help you minimize the chances of frozen downspouts, which include:
While the gutters are still clear and the weather isn’t too cold, you should consider using self-regulating heating cables.
Running those cables over your roof, along the gutters, and all the way inside your downspouts is a great idea.
That’s because they help melt the snow and keep the gutters’ temperature above zero, which ensures a clear pathway for excess water to drain.
Maintaining the gutter system and keeping it from getting clogged is the best solution to avoid ice build-ups during freezing cold days.
That’s why it’s essential to make sure that the gutters are clean before winter starts. Doing so saves you unneeded costly repairs in the long run.
Remove any twigs, leaves, and debris from all the pipes. Furthermore, ensure that the water runs unobstructed from the top to the bottom of your downspouts.
If you find that constantly cleaning your gutter system is tiring, you might want to consider installing a gutter guard system.
It fits over the currently existing gutters and protects them from collecting falling leaves and debris. This, in turn, prevents blockages, which helps avoid frozen downspouts.
It’s also essential to inspect the gutters, downspouts, and diverters (if you have them). Before winter starts, you have to make sure that the system functions as it should.
Additionally, check for any leaks, holes, or rust along the gutters, especially around the welded edges or joints.
Attending to those issues and replacing damaged gutters is the safest way to ensure problem-free water drainage.
Furthermore, if you notice excess water pooling near the house’s foundations, you should consider extending the downspouts.
It’s crucial to divert water as far away from the house as possible.
As mentioned before, snow buildup near the opening of the downspouts can block the flow of water.
As a result, water accumulates and freezes inside. That’s why you should regularly clear any snow build-up around the bottom of the downspouts.
That said, snow buildup over the roof is just as harmful because it’s the main cause of ice dams. These just add another stubborn barrier of ice.
It also helps clear the roof from any twigs, leaves, or branches that might otherwise block your gutters.
There are a couple of incidents where it would be better for you to consult a professional about them, which are:
1. Noticing ice formation on the inside of the roof, as this could be a sign of serious damage. You don’t want water to pool in your attic or, even worse, parts of the roof collapsing.
2. Spotting pieces of your gutters tearing away from the roof, as this is a sign of ice forming inside and weighing them down.
It’s definitely a major headache when snowfall gets your downspout frozen. This is especially during a snowstorm where you can’t do anything until it ends.
That’s why it’s crucial to know what to do to prevent this from happening.
Clearing your gutters and maintaining their condition helps a long way in protecting downspouts from freezing.
However, if they did freeze, you can always try to thaw the ice using a stream of warm water, a blow dryer, or a heat gun.
Finally, you should be aware of when to call a professional for help. That’s to protect your house and avoid any further damage.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and over 10 years of experience working in IT. As a homeowner, I love working on projects around the house, and as a father, I love investigating various ways to keep my family safe (whether or not this involves tech). I’ve also played guitar for almost 20 years and love writing music, although it’s hard to find the time these days.