3 Ways Cold Temps Can Affect Your Home

Ever wonder if extreme cold can damage your home? Learn how to help prevent common winter woes - frozen pipes, drywall cracks, frost heave - with these tips.

Homes covered in snow

Most people are sensitive to changes in the weather. In fact, you probably talk about the weather with family, close friends, acquaintances and even strangers. You watch and listen to forecasts and choose your attire based on weather reports. While you may spend a lot of time thinking about how the weather will affect you, you may rarely think of how the weather and the climate affect your home.

What happens to your home when temperatures change? Can colder weather affect your home's framing, foundation or other structural elements? And how does climate affect houses? Read on to find out.

Frost Heave Prevention

If you aren’t familiar with the terminology, frost heaving occurs when freezing temperatures cause ice to form and penetrate the soil. The soil swells (or heaves) in response. According to Canada's National Research Council, as wet soil freezes, it turns into a hard mass similar to concrete. Frost heave does not occur unless a source of water is present.

Luckily, frost heaving is rarely a problem in heated buildings. The heat loss from the building itself keeps the surrounding soil at temperatures above freezing. Damage can occur, however, to unheated buildings, driveways and sidewalks. Frost heaving can also be the root cause of drywall cracks in outdoor buildings, such as detached garages and sheds.

Frost Heave Solutions

Although frost heave is a natural phenomenon, homeowners can take action to reduce its harmful effects. First, choose the right type of soil for your property. If possible, stay away from finer, more absorbent soils composed of clay and silt. Choose coarser soil types that allow better drainage. Doing so helps to prevent the soil from retaining water caused by heavy rainfalls and melted snow. You can try to drain your yard using one of several DIY methods or consult a professional if frost heave continues to be an issue.

Front Door Lock Problems

Having issues with a frozen or sticking lock when the temperature drops? You're not alone. Front door lock problems are common in winter. One of the main problems is with the lock mechanism itself. Moisture from rain or snow can easily enter the keyhole. This is common in any season, but when temperatures drop below freezing, the moisture can turn to ice and prevent the door from opening — or your key from even entering and turning in the lock.

If you suspect ice is the cause of your sticking door lock, try carefully thawing it. One method is to heat your key before inserting it and trying to unlock the door. You can also use a commercial lock de-icer.

If the lock itself is not the culprit, look into changing the size of your door jamb. The wood in the door jamb can contract in winter due to the lack of humidity in the air, causing your door's fit within its frame to alter.

Air Conditioner and Heater Variances

While it’s not surprising that you may use air conditioning when it’s hot and the heater when it’s cold, the year is also full of transition months during which outdoor temperatures can vary greatly. Knowing when to switch your thermostat from A/C to heat (and vice versa) can be confusing. One solution is to invest in a programmable thermostat. Doing so not only ensures that your thermostat remains consistently set to a reasonable temperature, but it also helps you save on heating and cooling costs.

Frozen pipes are another major climate concern that can affect your home. Take precautions as soon as a freeze warning is issued. Unhook any exterior water hoses, cover outdoor spigots with insulated sleeves, keep your garage door closed and set your thermostat to at least 56 degrees Fahrenheit. For a permanent fix, insulate your pipes. Insulating your home's water lines can help you save on heating costs and reduce the risk of your pipes freezing and bursting.

Protecting your investment in your home means knowing how to protect your home from extreme cold. For more tips on how to winterize your home, check out this winter maintenance checklist. To further minimize the costs associated with the upkeep, repair and replacement of your home's essential systems and appliances, consider purchasing an American Home Shield® Home Warranty. Our flexible plans can help you protect your home, as well as your household budget. 


AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

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