Baby, it’s cold out there! I know, I didn’t need to tell you that. But for some, this record cold will also mean a record plunge in the cash in their pockets. Old man winter can do serious damage to your home. Water pipes can freeze and burst. Ice dams can develop on the roof and cause leaks. Over worked furnaces can be a fire hazard. Don’t assume that your insurance company will be there to pick up the tab. The insurance company will determine if the damage to your home could have been prevented by proper maintenance. So, be proactive and take steps to protect your home in the winter. The annual cost of winter damage to homes is in the billions of dollars. And unlike a spring storm old man winter can be quiet and sneaky. You may have a problem and not even know it! So, look for problems. The damage caused by the record cold might not make itself known until spring unless you know what to look for. Being proactive now can save you big time in the future. Let’s look at some of the potential problems. Be aware of how winter weather can affect your home and take steps to avert damage.
Those icicles hanging off your roof may look pretty BUT they are also the sign of trouble. Ice dams form when the upper part of the roof is warm enough to melt snow and the eaves are cold enough to freeze the runoff into icicles. What typically causes a roof to be warm is air from inside the house seeping into the attic and heating it up. When water from melting snow gets to the cold spot where the eaves begin, it re-freezes and creates a dam, and then a pool of water accumulates behind it.
At that point, two things usually happen, said Richard Stone, an extension educator in housing technology at the University of Minnesota Extension in St. Paul. First, the water in the pool rises high enough to migrate back up the roof and under the shingles, exposing the surface of the roof to rotting. Second, water flows over the dam to form icicles at the roof’s edges. This, in turn, forces the water into your home and can cause thousands of dollars of damage.
Avoid this type of dam trouble by (snicker) :
- Clean out gutters. Remove leaves, sticks and other debris, so melting snow and ice can flow freely.
- Install gutter guards. They prevent debris from entering the gutter.
- Make sure your attic is well ventilated. If the attic is cold, there will be less melting and refreezing on the roof.
- Keep the attic floor well insulated to minimize the amount of heat rising through the attic from within the house.
- Install a water-repellent membrane under your roof covering.
If you have ever experienced frozen water pipes I can assure you it scares you for life. The pipes leak and cause damage right before your eyes. Usually there is no alternative but to shut the water off to the house until the damaged pipes are repaired. It is a mess. So prevention is so important! Even though we are in winter now it would be important to take these actions now:
- Make sure all pipes near the exterior of your home are well insulated. Fit exposed pipes with insulation sleeves.
- During cold spells, open cabinet doors in your kitchen and bathroom to allow warm air to circulate around pipes.
- Seal holes in your home’s outside wall.
- Keep slow trickles of water flowing from faucets connected to pipes that run through an unheated or unprotected space.
Open Flames and other Hot Spots
During the cold months it’s all about keeping warm, so we turn up the thermostat and plug in the space heater. It’s good to remember that where there is warmth there is the potential for fire. A malfunctioning heating systems can create damage and threaten life.
Be sure to take the following measures.
- When using fireplaces, stoves or space heaters, ensure there is proper ventilation. Keep flammable material away from space heaters and do not overload electric circuits.
- Have your heating system serviced. Furnaces, boilers and chimneys should be serviced at least once a year to prevent fire and smoke damage.
- Check pipes for cracks and leaks and have them repaired.
- Make sure that smoke detectors are working properly.
If you do have damage from old man winter, Insurance Commissioner, John Doak advises the following:
- Call your insurance company or agent with your policy number and all relevant information as soon as possible. Cooperate fully with your company or agent; asking what forms, documents and data you will need to provide in order to process your claim.
- Take photos or video of the damage.
- Make the necessary repairs to prevent further damage to the property (for instance, covering broken windows, leaking roofs and damaged walls), but do not have permanent repairs made until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement with them on the cost of appropriate repairs.
- Save all receipts, including those from the temporary repairs that might be covered by your insurance policy.
- If your home is damaged to the extent that it is unlivable, ask your insurance provider if you have coverage for living expenses incurred while repairs are being made. Save all receipts to document these costs.
It’s good to have insurance to help protect against the ravages of old man winter but you have to do your part to protect your home and if you do have damage take the steps listed above. Now go have a nice warm bowl of soup and thumb your nose at old man winter.