“Winter is Coming.”Is Your House Prepared?

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“Winter is Coming.”Is Your House Prepared?

Many of the damages that occur in homes during the winter are preventable with just taking some precautions and preparing your home for the cold, to resist snow, ice, icy winds, etc. Autumn is the ideal time to do these activities that can save you a lot of trouble and money

The standard homeowner’s insurance covers damages caused by the inclement weather of the winter such as pipes that burst, accumulation of ice on the roofs, damage by wind or by the weight of the snow, as well as by fires, said the person in charge of an insurance company. 

Coverage for flood damage is available separately, either through the National Flood Insurance Program or by a specialized private insurer. In the case at hand, damages caused by climate are covered through the portion of coverage for other damages than those of shock or extensive (comprehensive) which is optional, not mandatory. 

Snow, and when it melts, can cause substantial damage to your property, winter storms are the third cause of catastrophic damage. According to the Insurance Services Office (ISO), winter storms represented 7.4% of national catastrophic losses between 1990 and 2009, with an average loss of $ 1,250,000 per year (calculated in 2009 dollars) and with an average amount of $ 5,896.00 per claim caused by water damage and its freezing in homes.

To help prepare your home for winter, the following tips are offered:

For the exterior of your house

  • Clean the roof drain channels. Remove leaves, branches, sediment and other accumulated debris that may slow the drainage of melted snow. This will prevent the water from being repressed, freezing and ice and snow accumulating on the roofs and walls of the house.
  • Install protective screens in the drainage channels. These grills, known in English as gutter guards, are available at hardware stores and specialty stores for home improvement and prevent clogging of dirt and debris in the drainage channels and prevent the water from the roof ice from reaching the ground.
  • Prune the trees near your house. Weak branches or very leafy trees give way under the weight of snow and ice and can cause damage if they fall on your roof or on your car, as well as the possibility of causing harm to people or bystanders on your property.
  • Repair stair steps and handrails. Prevent people from slipping and falling by seriously injuring themselves. Stairs with broken seats and covered with snow can be very dangerous for passers-by and their family.
  • Seal cracks and holes in the external walls of your house as well as in the bases. Be sure to use cement or plaster to cover gaps and prevent water from accumulating, as freezing can erode the walls. Also, protect the external pipes against ruptures and if you have skylights in the roof or translucent roofs, make sure they are hermetically sealed so that the ice and snow cannot find a way to enter your house.

Inside your house

  • Keep the house warm. It is recommended to keep the thermostat at least 65 degrees F since the inside of its walls – where the water pipes run – is colder than the outside and a lower temperature could cause the pipes to freeze.
  • Add additional insulating material in the attic, the basement or in the lower part of your home if it is on pillars. A good amount of insulating material in the attic will not only prevent you from losing the heating but also prevent the heat of the house from melting the snow on the roof and penetrating it or worse still freezing on the roof again like ice and its weight causes the structure to give way. The ideal temperature for the attic is between 5 and 10 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. A good insulator in the basement will allow the pipes not to freeze and burst from the pressure. The same can be applied to spaces that are not regularly inhabited, such as the garage, to prevent the pipes that empty there from freezing.
  • Make sure your heating system receives maintenance service. All parts of the heating system such as the heater, fireplace, boiler, and ducts should be checked at least once a year, and ensure that they do not show damage caused by smoke and heat from the continuous use of the previous year.
  • Check the pipes. Look for and repair any cracks or tears that allow the pipes to lose water and cover pipes exposed to the elements with thermal insulation tape.
  • Install an emergency pressure relief valve in your plumbing system. This valve will let escape the pressure that can accumulate in the plumbing system by freezing the water in the pipes and prevent them from exploding.
  • Check that fire and smoke alarms are working correctly. There is an increased risk of fire in the residences, particularly during the winter, so for your protection and that of your family make sure that the monitoring systems work. Consider also installing a carbon monoxide detector to prevent the accumulation of this gas, which is generally fatal and usually goes unnoticed.
  • Know where the main water shutoff valve on your property closes and where the main pipes are. If the pipes freeze, there is no time to waste. The faster you can shut off the water and give directions to your plumber, the less damage you will have to face from breaking them.
  • Hire a licensed contractor to inspect your property for structural damage. If you detect structural damage in time, fixing it can be much less expensive than if major damage occurs by waiting to make a repair. Also ask about the implementation of mechanisms to avoid flooding by snow water in prone areas, such as the basement or the walls of the building’s foundations. The plastic coverage of the internal walls of a basement and the installation of certain drainage pumps could help you to prevent your house and belongings from being flooded by snow water.

With these tips, your house will be ready for winter