The weather has been mild, but don’t be fooled. Winter is still upon us. Below are four of the most common and costly winter hazards which damage homes and businesses.
1. Hail and Wind – By far, hail and wind are the biggest drivers of winter hazards, causing billions in property damage claims according to the Insurance Information Institute. We can’t control severe weather, but we can minimize damage by installing hail-resistant asphalt shingles with a Class 4 rating. Older roofs should be inspected regularly, and especially after a severe storm.
Additionally, be sure that any outdoor furniture or décor is secured, or it may be blown about damaging anything in its path. Last, if high winds are predicted, move your vehicles away from trees which may be susceptible to toppling.
2. Ice Buildup. Some ice buildups take days of freezing weather to accumulate an amount of ice that damages your home, sidewalks and patios. However, more frequently this hazard sneaks up on homeowners as it follows a weather pattern of rapid freeze followed by rapid thaw. Even more damaging is an ice dam, which is a thick buildup of ice along the edge of the roof which melts by day and freezes by night causing accumulation that blocks the drainage. The problem multiplies when expansion and contraction occur as it begins to compromise the integrity of the roof and underlying construction. Water then seeps into ceilings, insulation and behind walls which can cause significant damage including collapsed ceilings. It’s hard to prevent this winter hazard, so be sure to check the fine print of your homeowner’s policy.
3. Frozen and Burst Pipes – Did you know that water expands by 9% when it freezes? The ice then displaces the water causing mounting pressure in the pipes which will eventually burst if this goes on too long. If your house has a crawl space, your pipes can be especially vulnerable, but even pipes under a kitchen or bathroom sink can freeze if up against an exterior wall. Burst pipes can cause an immense amount of water to enter your home damaging carpets, flooring, cabinets and more. Be sure your pipes are properly insulated including heat wrap for any pipes outside the heated interior.
4. House Fires – Last, but certainly not least is the costliest of winter hazard property damage, house fires. The majority of house fires are caused by heating equipment such as space heaters, but unattended fireplaces, candles and other heat producing devices also contribute to house fires. The National Fire Protection Association recommends 3 feet between the heating source and any burnable materials or equipment.
Although most of these hazards are beyond our control, diligence in home maintenance, esp. your roof, can minimize property damage. Be proactive when storms are forecasted, and be encouraged…spring is on its way.
Contributing author Kathleen Kiley, Business Development Manager for ServiceMaster Apple Valley