Winter is the season of giving, spending time with loved ones, and celebrating the holidays. Unfortunately, it is also the season that takes the greatest toll on your home. Snow, ice, and freezing temperatures put a great deal of strain on just about every part of your house. Knowing common pitfalls can help you to prepare, so that you can rest easy this winter.
Roof leaks commonly occur in the winter. When snow accumulates on your roof, patches of the snow melt because the heat of your home travels up through insufficiently insulated areas. This leaves ridges of ice called ice dams that prevent the melted snow from running off the roof. With nowhere to go, the water then pools on your roof, often in the most vulnerable spots, such as the valleys created by dormers and vaulted ceilings. When pooling water sits on your roof for long periods of time, it is highly likely to form leaks. Tell-tale signs of this are new spots of water damage on your ceiling. You can help prevent this by adding insulation, sealing off vulnerable areas before the first snow, and even adding a heating system to your eaves and gutters.
Heating System Failure
When temperatures plummet, furnaces have to work overtime to keep out the cold. This constant use can lead to clogged filters in the furnace and broken motors on the heat pump, both of which will either reduce air flow or eliminate it completely. To avoid having to spend a few days freezing without a heater, service your heating system before winter sets in. Have your HVAC company check all of the heating components in your home, including the pilot light, the thermostat, the filters, and the heat pump. Additionally, take some time to locate and seal drafts. Your heater won’t have to work as hard if your home is fully sealed and well-insulated.
When the air gets especially cold, people generally seem to go into a widespread panic about frozen pipes. Freezing pipes can wreak havoc and lead to costly repairs, but there are some simple steps you can take to ensure this doesn’t happen to you. The interior pipes you most need to watch out for are the ones running through unheated spaces, such as your garage, basement, and attic. These pipes should be insulated, which is an inexpensive and simple precaution to make. Pipes that are located in heated parts of your home can freeze as well. You can reduce the amount of cold these pipes are exposed to. Keep your garage door closed at all times. Keep your heater running at 55 degrees or more, even if you leave town. When temperatures fall below 20 degrees, allow a small trickle of cold water to flow through your pipes by lightly turning a faucet on. Also, open any cabinet doors that house pipes. Increase your insulation in your attic, basement, and crawl spaces, and seal your windows and doors.
Driveway Pavement Repairs
The freeze and thaw cycle of winter, along with the loads of ice melt and gravel that are being dumped on the roads, generate a vicious attack on your pavement. When ice melts, gravel, and moisture break down fragments of your pavement, water from the next snow or rain will fill these holes. When temperatures drop, the water freezes and expands, widening the holes and forming cracks. The longer you leave cracks in your pavement to be exposed, the larger they will become, until eventually your entire driveway will break down. For existing damage, a professional can determine if you need new paving or if you can patch the crack. To protect your driveway from future damage, seal it every one to three years. Additionally, you should patch cracks and holes at the onset, before they get too large.
Nothing is better than cozying up by the fire on a cold winter’s night. On the flip side, nothing is worse than turning on your fireplace or building a fire only to fill your home with smoke because the chimney is blocked. Actually, starting a house fire is worse, and that is another distinct possibility. Before lighting that first fire of winter, have your chimney and fireplace inspected. Any number of things could be blocking your chimney, including nesting animals. Getting an inspection will allow you to stay warm and toasty without risking life and limb and all you hold dear.
Clogged gutters pose a whole slew of problems, including ice dams, flooding, erosion, and foundation damage. Sometimes, people skip a fall gutter cleaning only to be forced to call a contractor when winter comes, and their clogged gutters are causing problems. Once the first freeze occurs, it will be much harder to clean out the gutters. Clean your gutters well every fall, especially if you have large trees near your home.
Frozen Outdoor Pipes
Depending on your home, you might have a lot of winterizing to do out of doors if you don’t want to deal with damage and costly repairs. Sprinkler systems need to be blown out before the first freeze of winter. Outdoor drains can freeze and crack. Consider replacing plastic drains with galvanized steel to avoid this. Septic lines and tanks can also freeze. Make sure that these areas are well covered by loose soil, and possibly even a layer of straw. If you have a private well, make sure that the pump and pipes are sufficiently insulated.
When heavy snows melt, your home is at risk of flooding. This is especially true if you have a basement. There are steps you can take to minimize this risk. Keep walkways and driveways shoveled to minimize snow and ice buildup. Make sure your gutters are clear so that meltwater will flow away from your house. Inspect your sump pump and consider having a backup installed.
Having contractors around to make common winter-time repairs is a blessing, but, as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you are aware of possible problem spots and prepare accordingly, you just might be able to ride out this winter without any property damage. You can simply enjoy a warm, cozy home instead!
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