Have you heard?! Syracuse, NY has been named the home of winter! If you’ve lived here, you’ve been witness to the recent 50° days with the polar vortex warnings for the day after. The 70° weather one week followed by 3ft of snow overnight the following week. The temperatures and precipitation build-up can wreck costly damage on your home, but how do you prepare your home for winter when you don’t know when Mother Nature will rear her icy head?
The first and most important step to your preparation starts with knowing how your home is protected if things turn to the worst. Review your home insurance policy and call your representative if you have any questions. You don’t want to wait until the pipes burst to find out that your home insurance will only cover $10,000 worth of damage in this instance when the average claim for a burst pipe usually works out to about $18,000 in repairs! It is imperative to know what you’re covered for and what your deductible is. Luckily, preparing your pipes for winter is incredibly easy.
First, identify the pipes you think will give you trouble. Pipes closest to exterior walls would be your main culprits. This is where your home is coldest and you may need to force some heat to circulate towards. If you have sinks with cabinets below, open the doors to the cabinet and let the heat get to the pipes. If your pipes are in the basement, most home improvement stores carry foam insulators that can slide right over the pipes to keep them toasty. (You put on a sweater when it’s cold, why can’t your pipes?) If you have fixtures you rarely use (a sink in the workshop or a half-bath in the basement), run the water to relieve some pressure and get the flow moving. Stagnant water is much more likely to freeze. If you hear weather alerts for sub-zero temperatures, turn on the sink to a slight, steady stream to keep the flow of water moving and avoiding costly damage. With these tips, you can avoid expensive insurance claims and headaches caused by lack of preparation inside your home. But what about the outside?
Imagine this… you wake up and the beautiful green grass you mowed last week is covered in cold, white flakes of snow. Should you stay inside with hot cocoa? Probably. Should you take some preventative maintenance for you home? Definitely. Snow build up on the roof of your home creates weight that most roofs are not meant to hold for extended periods of time. As the snow sits and the weather fluctuates, it can melt and freeze over and over again, becoming more dense and allowing more snow to pile on top. This weight can cause a portion of the roof to fail with damage ranging from a small leak to collapsed framing. Ice can build up in the eaves of the roof or around gutters, tearing off shingles and the gutters once the ice gets too heavy. One option would be to get a ladder and shovel your roof every time it snows, but for those fearful of slipping on the icy conditions, you can buy a roof rake. This telescoping pole has a wide, plastic piece at the end which allows you to pull the snow off the roof from the safety of the ground. Shoveling the sidewalk can get old after days of snow, but it’s worth avoiding the damage to your home.
But what if it happens? What do you do when things turn for the worst? The first step is to stop the damage from getting worse. If a pipe has burst, shut off the water at the main shut-off valve. (Now would be a good time to find it, if you don’t know where it is. Mark it with a bright sticker or something so you won’t forget.) Take pictures of the damage for insurance purposes and start moving things out. If any valuables or electronics have been damaged, document that for your insurance claim. Once you call your insurance, they can tell you how to proceed. Some insurance companies will take the pictures and assess the value of the damage, others will send a representative over. With this in mind, call your insurance before you order repairs. You can be proactive and get quotes for the repairs, but don’t choose your contractor until you know how the insurance company is financially assessing your situation.
Like most things in life, preparation is a major factor in success. Taking time to do preventative maintenance to your home could save you thousands down the line when disaster strikes.