15 Feb Protect Your Home From Freezing Temps & Ice Storms
As a homeowner, you take pride in maintaining your investment and protecting it from outside risks. Among these risks, winter weather presents some of the most significant challenges—challenges that may even lead to substantial property damage.
You’re probably familiar with the most common sources of property damage homeowners must account for during winter months:
- Cold temperatures
- Heavy snowfall
- Ice buildups
- Frozen pipes
- Water leaks
- Roof damage
In order to protect your home from one (or a few) of these, proactively assess your exposures and take action before it’s too late. In this blog, we’ll give you a few helpful tips and immediate action items.
Winter Weather Risks to Your Home
Depending on the size and location of your home, winter weather risks can vary. However, there are several concerns homeowners must account for if they are to protect their investment from the elements. Among other things, severe winter weather can lead to things like frozen pipes, ice buildups, and water damage. (Click here for a printable Home Checklist for assessing your winter weather damage risk!)
Frozen Pipes – Yikes!
One of the messiest and most costly home repairs is fixing a burst, frozen pipe. Water expands as it freezes and puts significant pressure on the metal or plastic pipes that hold it. If you fail to take the proper precautions, your pipes can easily fail during a cold winter.
Water from a burst pipe can cause damage to carpeting, short out electrical appliances and ruin furniture. Luckily, there are several ways to protect your home.
Start by inspecting your home, looking for areas that could be vulnerable to cold air intrusion and freezing. Find out where your pipes run, paying special attention to areas along outside walls and in crawl spaces. Know where your shutoff valves are located. Identify and label your main water shutoff in case a pipe freezes and you need to shut off your water supply quickly to avoid water damage.
You probably know to allow your faucets to drip slightly during extreme bouts of cold, but here are a few other steps you can take to protect your home:
- Keep the heat in your house at a minimum of 50° F; 55° or higher is preferable.
- Keep interior doors open. This allows heat from the rest of your house to spread, keeping your pipes warm.
- Seal any cracks and holes found near your pipes. This can help keep cold air out.
- Add extra insulation to your pipes. Experts recommend fitting your pipes with foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves. This is especially helpful for pipes or hoses on the exterior of your home.
- Wrap pipes in heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables.
- Disconnect outdoor items such as hoses and faucets.
- Keep your garage door closed if there is a water supply in there.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to prepare in advance and not have to deal with frozen or burst pipes. However, if you turn on a faucet and no water or only a trickle comes out then your pipes may be frozen. Turn off the main water valve and keep the faucet on. Apply heat to the pipe by using an electric heating pad, hair dryer or portable space heater, or by wrapping the pipe in towels soaked in hot water. You should apply heat until you regain water pressure. If this does not solve the problem, contact a licensed plumber to inspect your pipes.
Ice Around Your Home is a Liability
Extreme winter weather not only has the potential to damage your home, but it can also create serious liability concerns. During the winter season, walkways, stairs and driveways can become slip and trip hazards as snow falls and ice forms. Should someone injure themselves on your property, you could be held liable for medical costs as well as any other damages, particularly if you didn’t take the appropriate precautions following adverse weather.
To adequately protect yourself from such liability concerns, consider doing the following:
Shovel and de-ice—It’s very common for someone to slip on ice during the winter and injure themselves. In order to keep you and members of the public safe, ensure driveways, stairs and sidewalks around your property are clear of ice and snow. To create an adequate walkway, be sure to clear all or as much snow away as possible. Once you’ve removed snow, use anti-ice material on walkways and stairs to make them less slippery. Commonly used products include commercial-grade salt and sand. You should always shovel and remove ice after a storm in a timely manner.
Inspect your stairs—During the winter, a slip or fall on your outdoor stairs could lead to serious injuries. In addition to clearing snow and ice from your stairs, it’s important to inspect them and ensure they are in good condition and equipped with handrails. Stairs should be free of tripping hazards and cracks. Handrails should be installed by a professional to ensure they are sturdy and built to code. For additional protection, provide adequate exterior lighting around your stairs.
Trim your trees—You may not realize it, but snow and ice accumulation can cause tree branches to snap and fall. When this happens, the branches can strike passersby or property below, potentially causing significant injury or property damage. To prevent this from happening, trim your trees back, focusing on any branches that overhang your driveway, walkways or your neighbors’ property.
Keeping in mind the above tips can go a long way toward reducing your liability risks. It may also be a good idea to speak with your insurance agent, as they can provide even more tips and suggestions to reduce your exposures. Feel free to call our Byars|Wright office with questions at any time: (205) 221-3621.
Water Damage or Roof Collapse
Heavy ice and freezing rain can wreak havoc on your home’s roof. In some cases, roofs can’t withstand the heavy loads brought on my extreme weather, causing them major damage. In addition, as snow or ice melt, water damage can occur if your home’s roof isn’t structurally sound.
Assess your roof before the storm!
If constructed properly, a sloped roof can shed heavy snow, ice or melting water. In general, the gentler the slope, the more at risk you are for roof collapse. However, even with a sloped roof, snow and ice can still build up on flat areas or around obstructions like chimneys, skylights and dormers. As a result, it’s important for homeowners to regularly evaluate their roof, particularly before and after a significant storm. Specifically, homeowners should look for:
- New water leaks that appear to come from the roof or attic area
- Exterior doors that become difficult to open or close as a result of heavy loads on the roof
- New cracks in drywall and plaster
- Sagging roofs
If you notice any of the above issues following a storm, it’s important to take immediate action to clear loads from your roof and avoid a potential collapse.
Stay informed on the weather in your area!
One of the most important things to do in winter months is watch the local weather. You need to know how a winter weather advisory will affect your area. Then, you can take the steps to protect your home and family!
As always, we’re here to help. If you have questions regarding your home insurance, call our team of experts at Byars|Wright!
Weather-related risks can affect your home unexpectedly, often leading to major property damage, costly repairs and liability concerns. While you can’t always predict when a pipe will burst or heavy snow will affect the integrity of your roof, the proper insurance can go a long way toward protecting your finances. To learn more about the specific policies available to you, it’s important to work with a qualified insurance agent.
Contact Byars|Wright Insurance today to learn more.
Byars|Wright is a locally owned and operated independent insurance agency with five offices in the greater Birmingham area – including Jasper, Gardendale, Homewood, Alabaster, and Cullman – that has developed into a major provider of commercial and personal insurance. Since 1946, the agency has expanded its scope of business and delivers a wide-range of insurance products with quality coverage at competitive prices. Byars|Wright has been designated a Best Practices Agency by the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America and was also named “Best Companies to Work For in Alabama” by Business Alabama in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. In 2020, Byars|Wright won their category as the number one Best Company To Work For.
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