The Insurance Information Institute reports that in the first half of 2021, winter storms caused a record $15.1 billion in insured losses. The winter storms that plagued much of the country in February were responsible for most of those losses. Prepare yourself and watch the areas of your home that are most prone to winter weather damage.
Inadequate insulation can leave unprotected pipes to freeze in chilly winter temperatures. Check the pipes in your attic, basement, crawlspace, and garage. If the pipes are bare, cover them with pipe insulation.
Pro tip: Turn off the water in your home when you leave on vacation in the winter. This will prevent a pipe from bursting and causing damage in your absence.
Avoid extensive water damage to your home with a few quick steps. Turn off the water valves to your outdoor faucets, disconnect and drain your hoses for storage, and drain any remaining water from the faucet fixture. If water freezes inside your hose and outdoor faucet, the interior water pipe could burst.
Clogged gutters, heat loss from your home, subfreezing temperatures, and snow on your roof can lead to ice blockages in your gutters. Repeated melting and freezing can cause ice dams that may just look like icicles at first, but an ice dam is heavy and can pull the gutters down. Make sure your gutters are clear of debris so water can flow smoothly throughout the year.
Pro tip: Good insulation in your attic will reduce the amount of heat loss through your roof.
Ice dams don’t only affect the gutters. As the heavy ice forms, it can get under the shingles to your roof deck, causing wood rot, mold, wet insulation, and other issues detrimental to your home. Left unattended, ice dam damage can extend to water leaks inside your home.
Pro tip: If you notice an ice dam on your house, call a professional to remove it. You risk causing more damage by trying to DIY.
Follow your contractor or manufacturer’s instructions for the best way to weatherproof your deck. Appropriate treatment will prevent wood rot, rust, or peeling. It may be tempting to shovel off your deck, but unless you need a walkway, leave it alone. You’ll do more damage with a shovel than the snow will cause.
Avoid salt-based deicers, especially on concrete steps. The salt can damage the concrete — right down to the rebar. Instead, plain old-fashioned shoveling will keep the steps clean. If you need to melt ice for safety, check the label of your chosen deicer to ensure it is noncorrosive.
Freezing and thawing can cause a frost heave in the ground around your home. The pressure on your foundation can cause cracks and compromise the integrity. Water from melted snow and ice can also seep into the cinder blocks and bricks, which are porous. Expansion and contraction from freezing and thawing cause small cracks to enlarge, leading to water in your basement.
Don’t pile snow against your house, clean your gutters to prevent ice dams, and check your sump pump to make sure water can flow out of your home.
Prepare these damage-prone areas for winter, and keep an eye out for any hazards throughout the season!