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Looking for expert on attic ventilation / insulation just north of Boston

user-581867's picture

In order to avoid some of the issues with ice dams I run into most winters (especially this past one), I'm interested in having someone who has expertise in attic ventilation and insulation take a look at my place and tell me what I should change.  I have continual soffit vents and a ridge vent, but not sure if my problem is just needing additional insulation and sealing air leaks.  I know Massachusetts has some kind of program in conjunction with our electricity provider (NSTAR) where they send someone to do an energy audit (MASS SAVE), but I don't think they'll tell me much more than I need additional insulation.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.


  Ron in Andover, MA

Hi, Have you checked that (post #211281, reply #1 of 4)

I'm not an expert but I'll try to help.

Have you checked that the soffit vents are clear and unobstructed? Mine are currently plugged with blown in insulation. Working on cleaning them out. 

To check if yours are plugged go into your attic during the day and turn the lights out. Look for light coming through the soffits. If there's light then they aren't plugged at least not completely. You may want to take a closer look at the ones near where you have ice damming.

Plugged soffits will allow the heat from the house to make the roof warm and melt snow which  will then freeze when the outside temp is below freezing.


Upgrading the insulation on the attic floor will help as well but I would start with the soffits.


Sealing leaks are a great benefit for controlling moisture for long term health of your attic but may not do much for your ice damming. That is unless you have very large leaks which you definitely should seal up.

If you have a forced hot air system with ducts in the attic definitely do seal those up. If just central air with ducts in the attic, still seal up the leaks and close the vents in each room during the winter.

Also think about creating an insulated box over the hatch. It may be one of those large leaks and is one of the easier and quicker things to do.

Thanks very much for the (post #211281, reply #2 of 4)

Thanks very much for the advice.  I don't believe the soffits are clogged but will take a look.

I agree with your thoughts that sealing the air leaks probably won't make that much of a difference.  It seems like if I'm having the insulation done, this would be a good time to at least have it looked at.

Since I first made the post, I got in touch with a local insulation company.  They have an engineer who will be coming up to do what sounds like a pretty thorough evaluation.  The end results will be suggestions on what he thinks should be done.  I think he does consulting work for the insulation outfit and I am paying for his time, so hopefully this will provide somewhat unbiased information.

I ended up contracting to have the roof also done this season.  The shingles were in reasonable shape, but have been having issues with a couple areas of flashing and decided I wanted to have that properly fixed.  After I told the roofer the problems I've had with ice dams, he suggested:

1) Have insulation added since reducing the heat going into the attic will help things

2) Move the vent stacks in the bathroom and kitchen moved further up the roof.  I think the thought is to get them away from the ice dam area to avoid leaks.  Seemed to make sense, but will also ask the insulation engineer when he comes to see his thoughts since he will be here before the roof is done.

3) His final thought was to add the roof heating wires in the problem areas, but I'd really like to avoid that option for a number of reasons.

So that's where things sit.  One last question; my feeling is to have the roof done either before the end of June or sometime in Septemeber or October since I wouldn't think mid summer would be a good time to have it done.  Do you have any thoughts?


Thanks again for your help,


It should be noted that it's (post #211281, reply #3 of 4)

It should be noted that it's possible for a house, especially one built before about 1980, to have some pretty serious air leaks, enough to cause localized ice dam problems.  It would not be a dumb idea to check for obvious air leaks.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

Insulation (post #211281, reply #4 of 4)

Hi Ron,

I have had the enegry audit done via the Mass Save program.  As you know it's's paid for via everybody's energy bill.  They do provide suggestions and they will pay to have some of them done and will share the cost with you to have some of the other things done.  I had had an audit a few years ago prior to replacing my heating system and central a/c.  I got rebates and a 7 year interest free loan for both.  I had another audit recently and got more freebies and suggestions.  Most of what I will get and do concerns attic insulation and air sealing.  Audit takes 2 hours or so.  They'll also give you low flow water faucet and shower head aerators plus enenrgy saving light bulbs.  I had done my own attic hatch insulated cover but they want to give me a better one.