Water always finds a way to damage properties in any season, including winter. During the cold season, uninsulated water pipes can freeze and burst, and ice dams can form on roofs. Moreover, thawed snow can enter the basement, causing flooding and, thus, water damage. Here’s what property owners can do to prevent winter water damage in their homes.
How to prevent winter water damage in homes
Prevent Frozen Pipes
- Water pipes should be insulated in unheated areas – the crawl space, basement, garage, attic, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
- Both hot and cold water pipes should be insulated with heat tape or another insulator.
- Warmer air should be allowed to circulate around the plumbing by opening kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors. The products stored in these cabinets should be moved up, out of the reach of children and pets.
- Cold water has to be allowed to drip from the faucets served by exposed pipes. Running even a trickle of water through pipes helps prevent them from freezing.
- The thermostat should be set to the same temperature during the day and at night. While the heating costs may rise, pipes will be less likely to freeze and burst.
- When leaving home for a day or more, homeowners should set the thermostat to at least 10 degrees Celsius. Also, the water supply and drain pipes and appliances that use water should be shut off. The master valve to the home should be shut off. In addition, a trusted person should check the home once a week.
- Another winter water damage prevention tip is to be careful when thawing frozen pipes.
Prevent Ice Dams
- Ice dams form at the edges of the roof when the heat in the attic causes snow on the roof to melt, which in turn refreezes at the gutters.
- The snow on the roof should be removed when it’s about 15 cm deep. To remove the snow without a ladder, it’s best to use a roof rake or a long-handled brush.
- The gutters and downspouts should be regularly inspected and cleaned, to allow melted snow to properly flow through the drain system.
- More long-term solutions to prevent ice dams include:
- Insulating the attic to prevent warm air from entering. Warm air can melt the snow on the roof, which refreezes, forming ice dams. The temperature in the attic must be kept between 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. If insulation needs to be replaced, the damaged roof area should be repaired first.
- Ensuring the attic is properly ventilated. Warm air should escape through vents near the top of the attic. Cold air should flow in through vents near the eaves.
- Installing a water membrane underneath the roof shingles. It helps prevent water from seeping in.
- Installing a snow shield to prevent leaks. The shield goes under the shingles starting from the low edge of the roof and extending up at least one metre inside the exterior wall of the house.
- Installing gutter screens to help keep out the debris that causes build-up and damage.
Snow on Roofs
- Heavy snow on roofs can cause ice dams and structural damage (cave-ins) to the roof.
- Snow should be removed when it’s about 15 cm deep; otherwise, the thick snow can lead to property damage.
- At least 5 cm of snow should be left on the roof to avoid doing damage to the roof covering.
- Those who live in a one-story home should stay on the ground and use a rake with a telescopic handle to remove the snow on the roof. Rakes can also be used to clear the overhangs in taller homes.
- Those who are about to shovel snow from a roof should make sure the ladder is stable and that they have a safety harness. For sloped roofs, shoveling should start at the ridge and end at the eaves.
Other Winter Water Damage Safety Tips
- Water leak detectors should be installed anywhere a water problem may occur, such as on sump pumps, near water-bearing fixtures, and behind or beneath pipes.
- The water supply lines should be checked annually for leaks. Appliances that can leak include the hot water heater, washing machine, ice machine in the refrigerator, and more.
- Property owners should purchase sewage back-up coverage. Heavy rains and melting snow can overload the stormwater system, causing water or sewage to back up into the home.
- Outdoor hoses must be disconnected when not in use. This prevents water from freezing in the line, creating a blockage that can cause backflow.
For water damage restoration, contact PuroClean!
The PuroClean team stands ready to provide professional restoration services to any property affected by water or mould damage, as well as fire & smoke damage.