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What you do in the coming days and weeks will have a huge impact on the water damage risks your home is under this winter. In terms of water damage prevention, you’re currently in the most pivotal time of the year for your home if you live in an area that will see low temps this winter. Despite this fact, many homeowners will simply not do the basic things that can make or break whether or not they have winter water damage. In some cases, it’s a case of not knowing what the threats are and the actions they can take to mitigate those threats. In other instances, it’s just pure laziness. Whatever the case, these homeowners put themselves at a much greater risk of home water damage.
As regular readers of our water damage blog know, winter is by far the busiest time of the year for us. And those readers also know, we do what we can to educate people about water damage so they can take the steps necessary to limit their exposure to severe flooding. So let’s talk through the biggest threats facing your home this winter when it comes to water damage and discuss the simple steps you can take to prevent any failures from happening this winter.
Far and away the biggest winter threat homes face is frozen pipes. Under normal circumstances, pipes are constantly under pressure from water. In fact, many homes have too much water pressure in their system putting their pipes at risk of failing and bursting, sending water everywhere quickly. But under extreme cold temperatures, your home’s pipes, if left exposed to the elements, see that threat level spike to untenable levels. The pipes most at risk are those that are in places within the home that can be exposed to cold temperatures. Whether it’s in exterior walls or in a crawlspace or attic, any pipes that might see freezing temperatures need to be insulated and wrapped. For your outside hose spigots, that means wrapping them with a towel and thoroughly taping them. And for pipes within your property that you can reach, that means buying pipe insulation and applying this on the piping, including the joints (which are most at risk of freezing/bursting).
The next biggest threat to homes this winter (specifically those that reside in areas that will sustain a significant amount of snow and prolonged cold temperatures) is ice dams forming. If you don’t know what ice dams are, they’re the cause of the big icicles you see hanging from roofs and gutters. While pretty, they’re incredibly taxing on your roof and can eventually lead to water damage inside your attic and the home itself.
What happens with an ice dam is heat is released from your home and goes into the attic. That heat then rises to the roof deck, where it begins to melt the snow on your roof. As the water drips down your roof, it eventually finds it’s way to overhanging portion of your roof that resides ‘outside’ of your home, meaning it’s still frozen. So when it gets there, the water refreezes and creates a dam. That dams grows in size and ends up trapping water behind it, which then causes damage to your roof and ultimately starts to leak into your roof or exterior walls.
How do I prevent ice dams? There’s 2 courses of action you can take. One is treating the symptoms and the other is treating the cause. To treat the symptoms, you can apply an electrical heat strip around the overhangs of your roof to melt any ice that might form there. But to truly prevent the cause of the snow melting on you roof, you have to make sure your roof deck stays cold all winter. To do this, you need to make sure it’s properly ventilated so that any hot air that reaches your attic can escape through these exit points instead of sitting in the attic and heating up the roof deck. You’ll want to consider adding more attic insulation (to prevent the heat escape in the first place), along with adding ventilation both on the roof itself and the exterior soffits.