Avoiding Winter Water Damage
Severe winter weather is the third most common cause of insurance claims due to catastrophic losses. The average losses due to freezing temperatures, ice and snow com out to 1.2 billion per year.
You can avoid such losses by taking simple steps to avoid expensive problems such as frozen pipes. Repair costs can vary greatly, but average at about $18,000.
A burst frozen pipe can cause extensive damage to your home’s drywall, flooring, and furniture. Here are some steps you can take to prevent frozen pipes and winter water damage.
When are pipes at risk of freezing?
Pipes are most at risk of freezing and bursting when temperatures fall into the teens. They are still at risk though when temperatures are in the 20s for an extended period of time. Windy days increase the risk.
Preventing frozen pipes
Make sure pipes in or close to exterior walls are insulated and that your home’s heater is working. If you leave your house unattended for more than a few days keep your heat on and set at 65 degrees. Have a trusted person check on your property while you’re away. If you leave for weeks or months then turn your water off and drain your pipes.
More tips to prevent frozen pipes
- Insulate exposed pipes in your garage and basement
- Seal holes in your outside walls. Use caulk or silicone sealant to close up holes for cable and telephone lines to protect from the cold.
- Allow water to trickle slowly from your faucets if your power or heating system goes out.
- Open cabinet doors to allow warm air to circulate around pipes during cold snaps.
What to do if your pipes freeze
If your pipes freeze then turn off your home’s water immediately. Know where your main water shut off valve is ahead of time. After turning your water off call a contractor or plumber to handle the first wave of clean up and repairs. Many insurance adjusters recommend that you document the damage with photographs. Keep the broken pipe so your insurance company can inspect it if they choose to. The more evidence and documentation you collect the better.
What about ice dams?
Ice dams form when snow melt refreezes in your gutters. When enough ice dams the snow melt water can seep under shingles and inside walls. This extensive damage is preventable. Here are some tips:
- Clean your gutters on a regular basis to allow them to flow freely.
- Install gutter guards if your gutters need cleaning too often.
- Remove snow from your roof before it begins to melt.
- Have your attic vented and insulated by qualified professionals. Keeping it just 5 to 10 degrees warmer than outside temperatures can help prevent ice damming.