Georgetown Insurance Agency

Cold weather is coming...Is your house ready?

by Melissa Gilbo, CISR on Nov 12, 2013

Ready or not the cold weather is right around the corner!  I for one am NOT ready for the long cold winter months!  So much to think about and so much to do with the Holiday Season approaching.  One thing on your winter to-do list that is a MUST DO should be winter-proofing your home!! There are some simple steps you can take to protect your home from freezing temperatures, snow and wind. Many winter-related disasters can be prevented if you follow the steps below to protect your home. 

The I.I.I. Insurance Information Institute offers the following checklist to help winter-proof your home:

Outside Your Home

  • Clean out gutters. Remove leaves, sticks and other debris from gutters, so melting snow and ice can flow freely. This can prevent ice damming, a condition where water is unable to drain through the gutters and instead seeps into the house causing water to drip from the ceiling and walls.
  • Install gutter guards. Available in most hardware and home stores, gutter guards prevent debris from entering the gutter and interfering with the flow of water away from the house and into the ground.
  • Trim trees and remove dead branches. Ice, snow and wind could cause weak trees or branches to break and damage your home or car, or injure someone walking by your property.
  • Repair steps and handrails. This may prevent someone from falling and seriously being injured. Broken stairs and banisters can become lethal when covered with snow and ice.
  • Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations. Use caulking to protect water pipes and make sure that skylights and other roof openings have proper weather stripping to prevent snowmelt from seeping in.

Inside Your Home

  • Keep the house warm. Set the thermostat for at least 65 degrees—since the temperature inside the walls, where the pipes are located, is substantially colder a lower temperature will not keep the pipes from freezing.
  • Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. If too much heat escapes through the attic, it can cause snow or ice to melt on the roof. Water can then re-freeze, causing more snow and ice to build up. This can result in a collapsed roof, and can contribute to ice damming. Ideally, the attic should be five to ten degrees warmer than the outside air. Well-insulated basements and crawl spaces will also help protect pipes from freezing. You may also consider insulating unfinished rooms such as garages to keep pipes from freezing.
  • Have the heating system serviced. Furnaces, boilers and chimneys should be serviced at least once a year to prevent fire and smoke damage.
  • Check pipes. Look closely for cracks and leaks and have the pipes repaired immediately. Wrap exposed pipes with heating tape.
  • Install an emergency pressure release valve in your plumbing system. This will protect the system against increased pressure caused by freezing pipes and can help prevent your pipes from bursting.
  • Make sure that smoke and fire alarms are working properly. Residential fires increase in the winter, so it is important to protect your family with working alarm systems. Also, consider installing a carbon monoxide detector, since a well sealed home can trap this toxic gas.
  • Learn how to shut the water off and know where your pipes are located. If your pipes freeze, time is of the essence. The quicker you can shut off the water or direct your plumber to the problem, the better chance you have to prevent pipes from bursting.
  • Hire a licensed contractor to look for structural damage. If damage is discovered, have it repaired now rather than waiting for a problem to occur. Also, ask about ways to prevent water damage due to snow-related flooding. Plastic coatings for internal basement walls, sump pumps and other methods can prevent flood damage to your home and belongings.
  • Take special care if you plan to be away. If you are going to be away for an extended period, take special care. Turn the water off and/or have the water system drained by a professional to keep pipes from freezing or bursting. Also, hire someone to check your home on a regular basis so that, if there is a problem, it can be fixed quickly, lessening any damage.

Standard homeowners policies can cover many winter-related disasters such as burst pipes, ice dams, wind damage caused by weight of ice or snow, as well as fire-related losses. Damage caused by water should be properly dried and repaired to prevent any potential problem with mold.  You should check with your agent or company to determine the specifics of your coverage.  

Contact us at 978-352-8000 or  if you have any questions about this and other insurance topics. We are always here to help you make insurance decisions and answer questions you have about your policy.

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