Water Damage Risks Related to Cold Weather

While we often associate winter with ice and snow buildup, fall’s cooling temperatures can also cause damage to your home. Particularly, frozen pipes along the exterior. As such, prepare for the season in advance 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 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 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 prepare, insulate your pipes well in advance. Sometimes, fiberglass insulation is all it takes.
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, spend fall closing up these cracks and invest in a sump pump to better control the water. Also consider having your property’s drainage assessed to prevent pooling.
It is recommended that you review your policy in advance of cold weather to make sure that your are covered in the event that snow or a broken appliance causes damage to your home over the winter. To review your policy with one of our agents, give us a call at 203.439.2815.