Despite a few frigid days and mild snowfalls, weather throughout most of the country has been relatively mild this winter. But that doesn’t mean homeowners shouldn’t safeguard their homes for winter weather, because even one storm is enough to wreak havoc on your property.
While the weather is still (somewhat) bearable, take the time to prepare your property for winter’s notoriously expensive damage. The New York Times reports severe winter weather ranks third as a cause of insured catastrophic losses. Take frozen pipes, for example – the average claim for damage from a frozen pipe is about $18,000, according to The Hartford’s analysis of five years of winter claims data – and it could be prevented for less than $10 and a trip to your local home improvement store.
Here are six important things you should do to winterize your home, potentially saving tens of thousands of dollars in the long run.
- Give your pipes some TLC. When water freezes it expands, so when water in your pipes freezes, the expansion creates pressure that can cause them to break. The main causes for frozen pipes are quick temperature drops, a thermostat set too low or insufficient insulation. To prevent this, follow these steps:
- Set your thermostat to a consistent temperature for day and night using a programmable thermostat. These thermostats are especially useful if you’re going to be away for a few days. You can lower it while you’re away, but be sure it doesn’t go lower than 55 degrees. Also consider opening kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors so warmer air can circulate around pipes, or allow faucets in these rooms to run slowly to avoid freezing. Finally, wrap uninsulated pipes with foam or self-adhesive insulating tape. Any pipes closer to the exterior walls that are exposed and any water pipes outside should be covered. A six-inch section of pipe insulation foam can cost as little as $3 – thousands of dollars less than dealing with a burst pipe.
- Schedule a furnace checkup with a heating system professional now, as you don’t want to wake up on the coldest morning of the year to find out you have no heat. Not only will the preventative maintenance help prolong the life of the unit, the technician will also be sure that it is working properly, that the combustion chamber is clean and free of cracks and there’s no carbon monoxide danger to your family.
- Roll it up and wrap it up. Disconnect any garden hoses from outdoor faucets and roll them up. These outdoor faucets are most likely to freeze and lead to burst pipes. For $10 or less, you can purchase an insulated cover at a hardware store and worry about one less thing this winter.
- Look up! Fall foliage is beautiful, but when leaves fall in to your rain gutters and aren’t properly cleared out, you could be dealing with ice dams come winter. Water in the gutters and downspouts mixes with debris, like leaves, then freezes. When new water (rain, melting snow) cannot flow through the gutters, it backs up and freezes, resulting in costly ice dams. If not properly treated, the melting water can seep underneath the shingles and drip into your home, ruining ceilings, sheetrock and paint
- Seal the leaks. Give the exterior of your house and all entries and windows a thorough once-over. Walk around the exterior of your home and check it for air tightness. Carefully look for cracks, which can be the source of air leaks, energy loss and money down the drain. An inexpensive tube of caulk can help prevent energy loss and also help prevent moisture from getting inside the walls of your home. Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, ducting or electrical wiring comes through walls or floors.
- Take it from the top. When it comes to inspecting your roof, stay on the ground and use binoculars to look for buckled, cracked or missing shingles. If you find any, have them replaced right away to prevent unexpected expenses. If you spot large areas of moss, your roof may be rotting, and damp snow sitting on top of it will accelerate the damage. Examine the flashing, metal pieces on your roof typically found around openings, like chimneys, dormers and skylights. Look for any rust spots, which could expose your home to damaging leaks. These are fairly easy and inexpensive repairs – if you can safely make them yourself, go for it. If not, trust that it won’t break the bank by calling in a professional.
About Peter Duncanson
Peter Duncanson is the Director of Systems Development for ServiceMaster Restore and Chairman of the Board of the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC). With over 30 years of experience in the industry, Peter holds many certifications including Master Water Restorer, Master Fire and Smoke Restorer and Master Textile Cleaner through the IICRC and is a CMR (Certified Mold Remediator) and CMRS (Certified Mold Remediation Supervisor) through the IAQA. Peter’s expert knowledge on all things home-related helps readers take simple, yet highly effective steps to safeguard their home and their family.