How to remove snow and ice or prevent them from building up on your home is good winter maintenance. Snow and ice can take a toll on home systems and exteriors.
Winter is on the way, and for some of us that means only temporary bursts of very cold temperatures. But others living in more northerly areas will experience prolonged periods of severely cold weather accompanied by an abundance of ice and snow — conditions that can inflict property damage and create liability issues. Before the weather turns truly frightful outside, it’s a good idea to minimize the risks. These common-sense winter home maintenance tips will prove helpful in preparing your home for whatever the season throws your way.
Protect Your Pipes
We all know that water expands when it freezes. If the water inside your pipes freezes, the pipes can crack and burst, potentially causing massive damage. To prevent this calamity, drain any water from outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems. Also, be sure to disconnect outdoor hoses and cover outdoor faucets with insulators. (A variety of models are available at your local hardware store.) Also protect any pipes running through unheated interiors — such as garages, attics or basements — with insulation.
In case of a water-related emergency, it’s a good idea to know where your water shut-off valve is located. Typically, it’s in the basement or buried toward the street in your front lawn, with either a concrete, metal or plastic access cover. Scout it out before freezing temperatures arrive.
Related: DIY: How To Insulate Your Hot Water Pipes
Seal Windows and Doors
The natural gaps that occur around windows and doors can make it difficult to keep your house warm. Using caulk to seal these areas, as well as installing weather stripping, can help. This relatively minor and inexpensive fix can help you save a significant amount of money on heating costs.
Additionally, in older homes, windows may be constructed of single-pane glass and doors lacking insulation. Upgrading to double pane windows and insulated doors can greatly increase your home's energy efficiency.
Clean Out the Gutters to Avoid Ice Dams
An ice dam occurs when ice and snow melts during the day and then refreezes in the evening, becoming trapped in your gutters and clogging them. This situation can force water back up under the roof line and lead to expensive damage to your home. Make sure your gutters are free of all leaves, sticks and other debris that could lead to ice dams.
Keep Your Attic Cool
In addition to clogged gutters, a warm attic can contribute to ice dam damage by causing snow to melt in the middle of your roof and drain toward the gutters where it may refreeze. To keep your attic sufficiently cool, make sure it’s properly ventilated and seal any cracks or holes in your ceiling and around fixtures so that household heat doesn’t seep into the attic. It’s also a good idea to insulate the attic floor to keep heat inside your home and outside of the attic.
Watch Your Roof for Snow Overload
While you don’t want snow melt to happen too rapidly, creating the potential for ice dams, you don’t want your roof overloaded with snow either. If your roof appears to be sagging or you hear cracking or popping noises, call a reputable roofing contractor immediately to remove the extra weight from your roof. If you are wondering how to remove snow near the roof’s edge, use a long-handled snow rake. Removing this snow near the gutters will also help prevent ice dams.
Remove Damaged or Dangerous Tree Branches Hanging Over Your House
Even if they looked sturdy earlier in the year, trees and their branches can be affected by wind, ice and snow. Timely pruning is essential. When stressed, branches can break and fall. When they do, they can damage your home or car, or injure someone standing nearby.
Have Your Heating System Checked by a Professional Contractor
Change your furnace filter at the start of the winter season and then every two to four months thereafter. Clogged or dirty filters prevent your system from operating efficiently.
And when winter is howling outside, be sure to keep your home heated to at least 65 degrees (as recommended by the Insurance Information Institute). The temperature inside the walls is colder than the walls themselves, and a room temperature lower than 65 degrees might not prevent the pipes housed inside them from freezing.
Inspect the Fireplace and Chimney
We all enjoy a flickering fire to warm a winter evening, but before igniting the first log, make sure your fireplace and chimney are clean and free of critters. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys, vents and fireplaces be inspected at least once a year for soundness and freedom from deposits. Before winter hits with full force, call in a professional chimney sweep to clean out soot and other debris that could catch fire, and keep the flue closed all the way when you’re not using the fireplace.
While taking these steps to prepare your home for winter’s storms, consider purchasing a Home Warranty from American Home Shield®. Our flexible plans can keep your appliances and the key components of your home systems up and running the year round, and with minimal out-of-pocket costs to you. Contact AHS today for a free estimate!