As any North Easterner knows, ice, snow and wind can be hard on your home or property. But there are steps homeowners can take to guard against the potential damage winter can cause.
Ice Dams ::
An ice dam is a wall of ice that forms at the edge of the roof. When heat from inside melts the snow on the roof, water runs down and refreezes at the roof’s edge. Eventually, the ice builds up and blocks water from draining off the roof. This, in turn, forces the water into your home causing damage. Help avoid damage by taking these steps:
- 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 it is cold, less melting and refreezing will occur on the roof.
- Keep the attic floor well insulated to minimize the amount of heat rising through the attic from within the house.
Freezing Pipes ::
Frozen water in pipes can cause pressure buildup leading to pipes bursting. Pipes in attics, crawl spaces and outside walls are particularly vulnerable to freezing. Take the following precautions to keep water in pipes from freezing:
- Make sure all pipes near the exterior of your home are well insulated and 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. Holes for television, cable or telephone lines can expose your pipes and electrical system to extremely cold temperatures and their effects. Use outdoor caulking to seal these small openings in your home’s foundation.
- Keep slow trickles of water flowing from faucets connected to pipes that run through an unheated or unprotected space.
- If you plan to be away for more than four days, arrange for someone to come by regularly to make sure the heat is on.
Outdoor Maintenance ::
- Make sure tree and shrub branches are well away from the house and windows. Ice can cause branches to break and damage your home. Check the foundation for small cracks or openings where mice or other pests can sneak in and seal up any possible entrances. This will also keep water from getting in between the bricks, expanding as it freezes and causing larger cracks. Clear any snow accumulation off gas meters and away from basement windows and dryer exhaust vents.
- A well-maintained roof and walls will help keep the effects of winter at bay. Make sure roof shingles are securely fastened.
Interior hot spots ::
Malfunctioning heating systems within your house during the winter months can create damage.
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.
When the weather warms up and snow starts to melt, you want to make sure it doesn’t seep into your home and cause water damage. Minimize the risk of flooding:
- Shovel snow away from the house, especially basement windows.
- Check your property for obstructions that could prevent melting snow from draining away from the house. Clear a path for the water.
- Check catch basins on the street to ensure they are not obstructed.
- To be on the safe side, move valuable items located in your basement to higher levels if there is a thaw.