4 Questions to Ask a Contractor on How to Minimize Ice Dams

Minimize ice dams

Michigan is known for heavy snowstorms. As a homeowner, you may be wondering how to minimize ice dams.

Don’t get stuck paying to have an ice dam removed again this year. You will know because there will be the telltale signs of icicles hanging from your gutters once the extreme cold hits.

If your house is prone to them, you will save yourself the headache of having to deal with them every year by fixing your attic situation more permanently.

The biggest mistake you can make about calling a contractor for a consultation is forgetting to do it until it is already winter.

We know new insulation and construction (if you need your attic ventilation fixed) is expensive upfront. In addition, it’s not a visible fix to your home unless you spend a lot of time in your attic.

However, you will reap the rewards by minimizing ice dams to deal with in the winter and decreased energy bills all year round. So, if you’re thinking about hiring a contractor to address your ice dam issues from inside, here are the questions you need to make sure they can answer.

Questions to Ask on How to Minimize Ice Dams

#1 What Are Ice Dams?

This question may seem like a no-brainer, but if a contractor doesn’t know the ins and outs of why building codes are written and why we build things the way we do, he or she shouldn’t be in business. A contractor should explain to you that ice dams are formed from a combination of factors, including but not limited to attic temperature.

An attic needs to stay as close to the outside temperature as possible in all seasons. When too much warm air leaks into your attic space, it heats the roof from the inside and melts the snow and ice. A warm attic can also happen when improperly vented.

Melted ice re-freezes when it hits your cold gutters, forming those beautiful icicles everyone’s trying to re-create with twinkle lights. The problem is that water keeps melting and re-freezing. It will find any vulnerable spot on your roof (like under the shingles) to back up into.

#2 How Are Ice Dams Minimized?

There are many methods of removing ice dams – or the snow on your roof that can lead to ice dams. Most are extremely dangerous and should only be done by a professional. Ice can be chipped away, snow can be brushed or shoveled off, and heat tape can be applied. However, the only real way to minimize ice dams is to have a properly insulated and ventilated attic space.

How do you maintain a proper attic temperature? The answer is adequate insulation and ventilation.

That’s it. That’s the only way. If you have proper insulation and ventilation, snow can and will sit on your roof. However, the melt and freeze are minimized.

#3 What is The Right Attic Insulation?

The answer to this question is different for every house and the same for every house. You may not need as much insulation as the next house, but you need the same R-value.

Insulation’s R-value relates to how much thermal protection it offers. Less expensive types of insulation – the fiberglass – may have to be layered more thickly than a very high R-value insulation like spray foam.

The recommended ceiling R-value for the Lower Peninsula in Michigan (zone 5) according to Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has the rating of 38. This recommendation typically means 10 – 14 inches of insulation, depending on what type you use.

#4 How Do You Properly Ventilate an Attic Space?

The right answer to this question shouldn’t be simple. A competent contractor should be able to look at your attic space and tell you if your hot attic is due to poor ventilation, lack of insulation, or both.

The right ventilation allows for the natural circulation of air. Half should be located in the soffit, and half should be located at the gable of your roof. You need about 1 square foot of ventilation for every 150 square feet of total attic space for unbalanced and 1 for 300 balanced.


There is no such thing as preventing ice dams. However, they can be minimized.

Keeping these questions in mind should go a long way toward getting the right contractor. The right contractor should be able to minimize your ice dam problem. If you in Southeast Michigan, we at Renovations Roofing & Remodeling, Inc. would be honored to help!

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