Winter storms can cause damage to your residential property, especially if you don’t take the time to safeguard your home for winter weather. Winter storms caused nearly $6 billion in insured losses in 2022, the second-highest year on record for winter storm insured losses in the last ten years, according to Aon.
Familiarizing yourself with some of the most common causes of winter storm damage can help protect your business or home. If you live in areas prone to hurricanes or tornadoes, you know it is critical to be prepared for a disaster. Preparing for an ice storm during the winter months should be no different because this season can cause disasters as well.
Here are 5 tips to guide you through winter storm home preparedness and protecting the interior/exterior of your home against winter storms:
5 Tips To Preventing Winter Storm Damage To Your Home
Monitor Ice Dams
An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow (water) from draining off the roof. The water that backs up behind the dam can leak into a home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation and other areas.
Ice dams occur when the water from melting snow freezes into ice at the edge of your home’s roofline. If you do not remove the snow properly, the ice that develops may grow and prevent water from melting snow from draining off of your roof. When this water is not able to drain, it can cause back-ups under roof shingles and push its way into your house.
Once an ice dam forms, it’s essential to remove it before further thawing and freezing causes it to expand and put the roof and gutter at additional risk. Here are a few ways to remove ice dams before they damage your home or hurt someone.
- Rake the snow from the roof. From the ground, lift the rake up to the roof and pull the snow down. Just make sure you’re standing far enough back that the snow doesn’t land on you. If you clear at least a few feet above the ice dam, the water will be less likely to pool up and penetrate the shingles.
- Utilize a chemical melting agent. One easy ice dam removal tactic is to use calcium chloride pellets, and only calcium chloride, to melt it away. Never use rock salt—it can damage your shingles and ruin any plants that it drips onto below. Fill tube socks or pantyhose legs with pellets or granules and then tie off their ends with string. Lay the socks or pantyhose across the ice that you want to melt.
- Pound the ice with a mallet. Sometimes, chemicals either aren’t strong enough or fast enough to solve the problem. In this case, you may need to climb up there and chip away at it. The best tool to use for this is a mallet. Melt as much of the dam away as you can with calcium chloride, and then use the mallet to clean up the rest. Don’t use something sharp like an axe or a chisel—you can damage your roof and make the problem of leaking that much worse.
- Hire a professional removal service. If you’re not comfortable up on a ladder, or aren’t having success with the above methods, you can always hire a professional to take care of the problem for you. The professionals can utilize commercial grade steamers to quickly melt away ice dams, or at least shrink them to manageable chunks. They also can likely give you some ideas to implement for ice dam prevention.
Prevent Frozen Pipes
As temperatures fall, the water running through the pipes inside your house get colder. When water inside the pipes start freezing, it causes the water to expand – creating a pressure which can eventually lead to the pipe cracking or leaking.
Burst pipes have the potential to create a serious water damage situation, and the repairs can be extremely costly. In 2022, Texas was the top state for frozen pipe and winter water damages, followed by New York. This shows that the need for winter storm damage restoration services wasn’t just isolated to the Northeast part of the country, as you would typically guess.
Here are a few ways you can prevent frozen pipes:
- Insulate water pipes that run-through unheated areas of your home
- Seal leaks
- Keep garage doors closed, especially if water supply lines are housed there
- Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature during day and night
- Allow indoor faucets to drip – moving water is less likely to freeze
- Drain outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems
If your pipes are frozen, you can utilize the following methods to unfreeze them to prevent a burst:
- Turn on the faucet. By running water through the pipe, even if it is cold, it will help melt ice in the pipe.
- Apply heat to the frozen section of the pipe by using a hair dryer or space heater.
- Call a licensed plumber if you are unable to locate the frozen area.
Winterize the Interior of Your Home
Preparing your home for the winter season is important. Being proactive to winterize the interior of your home before winter arrives can make all the difference. There are several steps you can take to prepare the interior of your home for winter.
Weatherproofing Doors and Windows
Avoid winter drafts by weather proofing on the cracks of your window sills, door frames, and other places that cold air can get in.
- Close and lock your windows so that there are no gaps that air can leak through.
- Weatherproof your exterior doors by applying weather strips to the sides and tops and new door sweeps at the bottom.
- Check the glazing on your old wooden windows. If you have chunks missing or loose panes, reglaze before the temperatures dip below the 50s.
- Layer your window treatments by combining blinds, sheer curtains and heavy drapes to provide protection for cold weather.
- Apply caulk to seal drafty windows.
Winterizing Your HVAC
Whenever the temperatures are very high or very low, the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system in your home is tasked to control and regulate the interior temperature. For your HVAC system to perform at its best ability, it should be maintained regularly. Regular maintenance is vital to ensuring your HVAC will be capable of withstanding winter.
Winterizing your system ensures that you will be comfortable this winter as well as ready to use your air conditioner right away when the warm weather strikes again. Ways to winterize your HVAC system include:
- Changing your filter
- Cleaning your registers
- Sealing any gaps in your heating or cooling vents
- Turning off and cleaning up the outside of your A/C unit
The steps to winterize your HVAC system can start right after summer ends, and the fall season is kicked off.
Get A Generator for Emergency Power Outages
Winter storms can bring freezing rain, ice, snow, high winds, or a combination of these conditions. Damage from blizzards can cause power outages that last for days on end. When the power goes out and temperatures fall below freezing, a house can quickly become uncomfortable. While some people take comfort in gas or wood burning fireplaces, most are designed for aesthetics and not for heating your home. You can only huddle around the fireplace for so long, until it eventually becomes miserable inside your home.
By connecting a portable generator to your home during a power outage, you can have peace of mind that your household can continue to function should your home lose power. Generators can be utilized to power essential appliances in the home, like your refrigerator, an electric stove, lights, and heating devices. With a generator, your family can stay safe and warm, even if an emergency power outage occurs from winter weather.
Routinely Inspect Your Chimney and Fireplace
There’s nothing like the warmth of a cozy fire on a cold winter day…but make sure your fireplace and chimney are clean before lighting matches. A dirty chimney and fireplace are serious fire hazards that can result in devastating damage to your home. The National Fire Protection Association suggests that you should have your chimney swept once a year to remove dangerous soot and debris. Protect your home by contacting a local professional in your area to have your chimney inspected and cleaned.
Clear Away Dead Leaves and Branches
When the leaves start to fall, that should be your sign that it’s time to clean your gutters and prepare for freezing temperatures.
Clogged gutter lanes or clogged downspouts can cause extreme damage to either your gutter, or to your roof. Wet leaves turn into frozen leaves and since water expands as it freezes, this will cause your gutters to warp. Frozen wet leaves can also act as a dam, clogging your gutters when the wet leaves thaw. This backed up water has nowhere to go, so it pushes up underneath your shingles and will end up causing damage to your roof deck over time. In fact, the pressure culminated from these dead leaves and branches can eventually lead to roof collapse. That’s why it is essential to clear leaves and debris from your gutters and roof.
Winterizing your home by making sure to remove snow from roof and driveway before the dead of winter can end up saving you thousands of dollars in repair in the long run.
Building A Winter Weather Emergency Plan
Take the time now to collect the emergency supplies you would need if the power was out, water supplies were cut off, and grocery stores were not open. You can build your supplies over time by adding a few items as your budget allows.
By preparing an emergency plan before disaster strikes, you will have the items you need until you can receive help. An emergency plan should include an emergency kit and communication plan.
What To Put In An Emergency Kit
Basic emergency supplies should include the following, most of which you probably already have in your home. Other items could be included in your emergency kit, but you want to be sure that your kit includes:
- Water = Ensure you have at least 1 gallon of water per person per day for at least 3 days. Store a longer than 3-day supply of water, if possible. An average person needs to drink about ¾ of a gallon of fluid daily. Individual needs vary depending on age, gender, health, level of activity, food choices, and climate. You may also need stored water for food preparation.
- Food = Store at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food for members of your household, including pets. Consider special dietary needs (like infant formula). Include a non-electric can opener for canned good.
- Flashlight, Radio & Cell Phone Charger = You will need to be able to charge these items without electricity. Your flashlight and radio should be either hand-cranked or battery-powered, and stored with extra batteries. Your cell phone charger should be hand-crank, solar, or able to be charged from a car outlet.
- Medical Equipment = Include first aid kit, prescription and non-prescription/over-the-counter medications, and medical supplies.
- Sanitation Supplies = Pack supplies for sanitation, such as hand sanitizer, towelettes, paper products, and plastic bags, for use when water resources are limited.
- Assistive Technology = Include battery backup power for power-dependent mobility devices, oxygen, and other assistive technology needs.
- Clothing & Blankets = Ensure you have clothing with long sleeves and long pants, thick-soled shoes. It is smart to have a sleeping bag or a warm blanket for each person in your household.
- Whistle = Include a whistle to signal for help.
How To Build A Communication Plan
Now that you are armed with having the right supplies, the next step is creating an emergency plan as to how you will reconnect with household members should a winter storm cause damage to your home. Common devices like cell phones and computers could be unreliable during disasters, and electricity could be disrupted. Be sure to get your kids involved in the planning process and what to do during a winter storm so they feel comfortable with the strategy.
The core procedures to outline in your emergency communication plan with all members of the home include:
- Who to call. Since phone batteries might run down, it is important to identify someone outside of your community to act as a central point of contact to help your household reconnect. In a community-wide disaster, it may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town because local phone lines may be busy.
- Where to meet. Decide on safe, familiar places where your family can go for protection or to reunite. Make sure these locations are accessible for household members with disabilities or access and functional needs. If you have pets or service animals, think about animal-friendly locations.
- What to pack. Should disaster strike, it is important to consider what items should be packed and taken with family members should they become separated. Medications, clothing and other items in the emergency kit might be good items to add to your list.
If Your Home Is Damaged By Winter Storms, BMS CAT Is Here To Help.
Since 1948, we have been helping homeowners and business owners restore, rebuild and recover their property after any type of disaster – including winter storms. Throughout our decades of experience, we have encountered almost any type of property loss from winter weather – so we have the knowledge and tools to start the cleanup and mitigation process quickly.