With Oregon’s dramatic temperature drop in these past few weeks, it is safe to say that bundle-up season is almost upon us. But it’s not just your ears and toes that need bundling – in fact, your home could use a change in wardrobe as well.
Damages related to wind, hail, water, and freezing account for more homeowners insurance claims than all other property damage combined – so it’s important to ensure you and your home are protected during this hazardous season. Fortunately, there are several measures you can take to “winter-proof” your house before bad weather hits.
Water damage from broken pipes is one of the primary culprits when it comes to home damage. A frozen pipe is at risk of bursting – which could cost an average of $5,000 in repairs. Here are some steps you can take to protect your pipes from freezing in bitter weather.
- Add extensions to downspouts to divert water to run at least 3 to 4 feet away from the foundation.
- If possible, shut off outside water valves and drain your outdoor faucets and garden hoses. Roll up the garden hoses and store them inside.
- Drain your irrigation system by arranging to have any in-ground sprinkler pipes blown out.
- Consider an insulated blanket for your hot water heater.
- During a cold snap, keep cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate around pipes – particularly under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.
- Keep a slow trickle of warm water flowing overnight – preferably from a faucet on an outside wall (or any faucet connected to pipes that run through unheated or unprotected spaces).
- Keep your thermostat set at the same temperature during both day and night – and if you leave town, don’t set it lower than 55°F. You might not be there to enjoy it, but your pipes will thank you.
The Building Envelope
Likewise, air leaks (due to things like small cracks in your home’s structure) allow warm air to escape – causing your heater to go into overdrive to keep your place warm. In addition to being unsafe and inefficient, this will also have your family reaching for extra blankets. Keep drafts to a minimum by blocking any potential entry points for cold air.
- Check throughout your home for leaks or drafts – including windows, doors, vents, fans, plumbing areas, air conditioners, mail chutes, and electrical and gas lines.
- Insulate walls and attics
- Install storm windows and doors – and don’t overlook the basement.
- If door thresholds are worn, replace them.
- Invest in weather stripping. Available in almost any hardware store, weather stripping installs quickly around windows and doors and is a good way to help seal warm air in and cold air out of your home.
- If you already have weather stripping, replace any worn areas around doors and windows and caulk any gaps.
- If any pipes or ducts travel through an exterior wall, be sure to also use caulking and weather stripping around any entry points.
The Roof & Gutters
High winds, ice, and moisture from winter storms can easily damage the roof and gutters, exposing your home to serious damage. Make sure your roof is prepared before the weather turns.
- Inspect your roof. Also check shutters, siding, and other exterior materials to ensure they’re secure.
- Prepare for snow. The average roof can handle about four feet of fresh snow before it’s stressed. However, as snow packs down from multiple storms, it could cause a roof collapse. Have a contractor check your roof to see if it can sustain the weight of a heavy snowfall. Consider buying a roof rake to easily clear snow off your roof and keep it from building up.
- Remove moss. Moss grows on roof shingles – particularly in the spaces between shingles where the spores collect. Homeowners may think mos is harmless or even pretty – but moss on a roof acts as a sponge, soaking up and storing rainwater and then saturating the roof sheathing below. Combat this growth by installing zinc or copper flashing along the peak, applying moss-killing chemicals, or brushing/brooming the moss off at least 1-2 times per year.
If left full of debris, clogged gutters and drains can form ice dams that prevent your drainage systems from working properly. Ice dams occur when ice melts off the roof and then re-freezes as it drips into a clogged gutter. These block off drains, forcing water back under the roofline allowing it to seep in under the roof and soak interior walls.
Clear out your gutters or work with a roofing professional or contractor to have your gutters cleaned. Run water through the gutters to check for misalignments that could also cause water damage.
Other ways to avoid ice dams:
- Insulate your attic to prevent heat transfer from living areas. Check parts of the attic that may not be well insulated – like pipes and vents, chimney systems, and light fixtures. Be sure to also insulate the attic floor well to minimize the amount of rising heat.
- Ventilate your attic. Proper ventilation allows cold air into the attic, which helps to prevent warm air from melting ice on the roof.
- While a roofing professional is cleaning the gutters, see if they can also evaluate your roof for ice dams.
- Consider installing a water-repellent membrane under your roof covering.
Overgrown tree branches in heavy storms are a risk to your home, vehicles, and loved ones – as well as that of your neighbor. If there are long tree branches hanging near your house, your roof, or your gutters, prune them before it gets too cold.
Perhaps most importantly, one of the best steps you can take to protect your home is to select a homeowners insurance policy which provides the right type and amount of coverage. As you’re bundling up with scarves and coats this winter, make sure your home is just as prepared to weather the storm.
Is your homeowners insurance due for a check-up? Click here to learn more about your options and get in touch with a Hagan Hamilton insurance agent.