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Community and Q&A

How to Choose an Insulation Contractor for Ice Dam Repair

Daniel Morrison | Posted in Energy Efficiency and Durability on

It’s getting close to ice dam season for those of us in cold climates.

Last winter, I spent a lot of time hacking my neighbors out of their house because ice dams on their breezeway roof flowed over their gutters and froze the side door shut.

Of course, I’ll continue to hack and melt Mrs. Loudin to freedom, but last week she asked me to fix the problem for her. At first, I figured I would be climbing around in her attic, with a can of foam, or maybe a DIY foamy pack. But then the bright idea of hiring someone else to climb around in her attic occurred to me.

As an editor, the question “How do I hire an insulation contractor?” is an irresistible topic for a Q&A article Q&A Spotlight. Especially now, just in time for ice dam season.

I think it will be a useful thread for people with ice dams later this winter, or who are still having nightmares about last winter’s ice dams.

What three questions should I ask a potential insulation contractor or remodeler when trying to fix an ice dam problem?

Below is a picture of Mrs. Loudin’s roof last winter when I finally broke out the blow torch to melt her door open. Notice the ice on the steps and the icicles freezing the door closed.


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  1. davidmeiland | | #1

    Three questions? I They might be different questions, depending on whether you're talking to an insulator or a general. I would simply ask them to explain why the ice dams are occurring, and what they're going to do to solve it. The guy who understands where the heat is coming from and how it's getting there has the edge.

  2. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #2

    I agree with David. If a contractor begins the conversation with a discussion about air-sealing, followed by a discussion about increasing the R-value near the eaves, you're off to a good start.

    If a contractor begins the conversation with a discussion of ventilation improvements and the installation of Ice & Water Shield, look for another contractor.

    And if the contractor begins the conversation with a discussion of electric heating cables -- RUN!

  3. Daniel Morrison | | #3

    Thank you for the succinct answers.

    For local insulators, there are guys that use cellulose and guys that spray closed cell foam exclusively.

    Any thoughts on which to call first?

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