Preparing for the Cold Weather

As winter approaches, many homeowners must think about how the cold weather will affect their home. Lengthy periods of sub-freezing temperatures mean an increased potential for damage. As such, prepare for the season by considering the following risks.

Ice Dams

When you think about wintertime water damage, this phenomenon may come to mind first. Ice dams generally occur when snow builds up on your roof. The surface tends to be warm from the heat inside, so it melts and travels down, but the runoff freezes near the end, forming a dam. You’ll first notice it with icicles, but poor circulation and temperature control are often the source. To prepare, have your roof and HVAC system checked out and make sure you have a snow removal plan in place before the season begins.

Additionally, think about your gutters. It’s always a good idea to clean out the dead leaves and other debris in the fall. Otherwise, come winter, the snow builds up, freezes over and prevents anything from flowing through.

Icicles are not the only issue. Water may also seep into your home, causing water damage and allowing black mold to form.

High Winds

Does your region see winds above 70 MPH when the temperatures plunge? If so, they could be indirectly responsible for water damage. How does this happen? The winds may rip shingles off your roof, exposing the material underneath and by the next rain, moisture seeps through and into your attic. Soon enough – especially by the first snowfall – you’re dealing with leaks and rot.

Bursting Pipes

Where are your home’s pipes located? When you have them along the exterior, in the attic, leading to a hose spigot or inside a crawlspace or basement, these uninsulated areas become extremely cold in the winter. In turn, your pipes freeze, causing a backup in your plumbing and a potential flood in your home. If the pipes rupture, any liquids passing through will flow out. To prevent your pipes from rupturing, follow these tips:

  • Drain and shut off all outside spigots.
  • Leave the heat up! Set the thermostat and leave it set to the same temperature day and night.
  • Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warm air to circulate around plumbing.
  • If you have an attached garage, keep the doors shut. Wind and cold air drafts increase the likelihood of a frozen pipe.
  • If you are going away, shut off the water supply line to your washing machine.
  • Have someone check on the house if you are going away for an extended period of time. Once the ice melts and the temperatures rise, the water will start to flow.
  • Mark the main water supply line so it can be easily identified in the event it needs to be shut off in an emergency.

Leaking Water Heater

Once winter arrives, the temperature of cold water drops to about 25°F. In your home, the water heater has to work significantly harder to warm up the water. Additionally, if you haven’t cleaned out your water heater yet, all the sediment and buildup absorb the extra heat. As you’ll be using more hot water during the cold season, more stress gets placed on the appliance and it may eventually give way, leaking or bursting and causing a flood in your basement.

To prepare, now is the time to have your hot water heater drained to remove all buildup inside. Also during the season, occasionally listen for strange noises and check for both faulty pipes and leaks. All indicate something is not right and a flood may be imminent.

Snow Melt

When snow melts on your property, where does it go? Ideally, your grounds are structured for the water to run down and into a drain along the street. However, for some homes, the melting snow pools on the property. If it’s near the foundation, the surrounding soil first gets saturated before the moisture leaks through the foundation and into your basement walls. Over time, cracks and gaps begin to form.

As a solution, close up the cracks and invest in a sump pump to better control the water. Also, consider having your property’s drainage assessed to prevent pooling.

In case the cold weather causes damage to your home, discuss your policy with your agent to make sure you have proper coverage. To begin, give us a call at 203.439.2815.