Winter damage is one of the leading causes of home insurance claims and losses, and considering the harsh weather it can bring, that’s not entirely surprising. Here’s a quick review of some of the most common wintertime home problems and what you can do to try to prevent them from damaging your home and property:
- Burst water pipes. This is one of the most common problems affecting homes in the winter. When pipes are not properly insulated, they can freeze and burst, sending thousands of gallons of water flooding your home. The result isn’t just property and structural damage; leaking water can also result in mold and mildew that can cause major health issues and which can also be very difficult to eradicate. Fortunately, the “fix” is relatively simple: Invest in pipe insulation and make sure to cover all your pipes that run through uninsulated or poorly insulated spaces like unheated basements and crawlspaces. Pipes under sinks and at the backs of kitchen and bathroom cabinets are also at risk, as are those that run through exterior walls. While insulation may not be an option for these hard-to-reach pipes, leaving your cabinet doors open and keeping your thermostat set to no less than 55 or so can help ensure these pipes won’t hit the freezing mark. For pipes at special risk of freezing, invest in a pipe warming device designed to turn on when temperatures drop to a specific point. Also, be sure to turn off and drain outside taps if you haven’t already, and add spigot covers for insulation.
- Prevent ice dams: Ice dams occur when your home’s escaping heat causes melting snow from the center of your roof to flow down to the uninsulated roof edge where colder temperatures cause it to refreeze. The resulting ice dams can cause additional melted water to leak into your home. Not sure if you have a problem? Icicles hanging off the edge of your roof are a sign that you need to take action. Make sure your attic is properly insulated and be sure to keep your attic as cold as possible to prevent uneven melting. Seal up ceiling fixtures on your top floor to prevent warm air leaks into the attic above and consider using a de-icing cable designed specifically to prevent ice dams.
- Keep your basement dry: Homeowners insurance typically does not cover water that seeps in your basement as snow melts and spring rain hits. Keep an eye on possible moisture problems and have a wet vac ready just in case. When spring comes, consider sealing seams and having a drain installed around the perimeter of your home to channel water away from your home.
Winter home damage can cost thousands of dollars to repair. Have a look around your home this weekend to make sure your home is ready for winter’s worst so you can relax until spring brings another round of “to-dos” and chores.