Should You Salt Your Gutters?

Some homeowners swear by salting their gutters: they say that it’s an easy way to break up ice dams in the winter. Other people will tell you that the salt causes unfavorable side effects. If you ask Godzilla, he’ll say that it’s a good way to bring out their flavor. (rimshot)

In all seriousness, there is a big debate about whether salting your gutters is a good idea. So let’s weigh the pros and cons.

Pros

There are some individuals who swear by putting salt in their gutters. One of the best ways to do this is to pour rock salt into a large sock, stocking, or panty hose section, secure the open end with twine, and place these items of clothing perpendicular to the gutter section about 18 inches apart along your roofline. The end of each salt-filled “container” should hang over the gutter a little bit. You can also tie several of these containers together and place them in each downspout to melt ice there.

Gutter salting proponents note that the salt will melt any ice buildup in your gutters (like it does on sidewalks, driveways, and other flat surfaces). The melted ice will then run easily through your gutter system, and ice dams will dissolve and allow runoff water from your roof to enter your gutters.

Cons

Opponents of gutter salting point to the potential damage that salt can do. Even regular rock salt has the potential to change the color of your roof or adversely affect its structural integrity. In addition, salt can be corrosive enough to damage aluminum gutters, as well as metal flashings and downspouts. Finally, the salt can mix in with the water that drains out of gutters and downspouts — which can then fall on the flora in your yard and weaken or kill plants, grasses, shrubs, or flowers. These harmful effects can be magnified if you use calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, and other chemicals instead of regular salt.

So What Should You Do?

In the end, it’s really each homeowner’s decision as to whether or not their gutters should be salted. Factors to consider include:

  • the number of snow and ice days each year
  • the amount of plants or grasses that sit right next to the home
  • the type of metal used in roofline guttering and flashing.

Another alternative is to consider more fixed solutions like gutter guards or roof-heating systems to prevent ice dams from building up. But at the end of the day, each person should weigh the benefits against the potential long-term risks — and then make an informed decision about salted gutters.

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