Winter in the Northeast has a long history of freezing temperatures. Freezes affect any part of your home or business that deals with water on a daily basis. Water expands as it freezes, which puts enormous pressure on whatever contains it. This especially comes into play for your pipes, which can burst when they can no longer handle the building pressure. Ice dams are another common water damage related issue during winter. Make sure your home is prepared this winter by taking the following precautions for your property:
Any pipes exposed to severe cold are at risk including:
- Outdoor hose bibs
- Swimming pool supply lines
- Water sprinkler lines
- Water supply lines in unheated interior areas like basements or crawl spaces
- Pipes that run along exterior walls with little to no insulation
With the onset of extremely cold weather, protect your pipes from freezing by draining any water from the swimming pool or water sprinkler supply lines according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Drain and remove hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Keep the outside valve open so any leftover water can expand without causing the pipe to break. Unless specifically directed, do not put antifreeze in these pipes as it is environmentally harmful. Make sure to check all potential areas where water supply lines may be in unheated areas. Look in the garage, and under the kitchen or bathroom cabinets. Add insulation to your water pipes with “pipe sleeves” or similar materials to protect exposed pipes.
If you’re going away for a period of time, leave the heat on in your home. Set the temperature to at least 55˚ F. It’s important to also keep the thermostat set to the same temperature during both day and night when you are home. Fluctuating the temperature may save you money on your heating bill, but it will cost you in repair jobs if the pipes freeze and burst.
Ice dams and icicles form after heavy snowfall when warmer air from the attic causes the roof to heat up and the snow atop it to melt. This melting water pools behind the ice and then seeps up under the shingles of the roof. Sometimes it’s possible for water to work its way 5 to 10 feet back up underneath the shingles! Eventually this water will migrate through the roof, walls and then onto your ceilings. If you notice rust spots on drywall fasteners, peeling paint, or a sagging drywall, these are all signs of water damage occurring from your roof or ceiling. Ice dams also result in icicles nearby the edge of your roof, as the water melting and running down your roof will form into ice once it reaches the colder roof edge.
A key way to prevent ice dams is to keep your attic and roof cold. To keep a cold roof, close up attic bypasses. Rake back insulation and plug air leaks using foam, caulk or other methods. Make sure to wear a long-sleeved shirt and a dust mask when working with insulation to prevent irritation of your skin and lungs.
You can also measure the depth of your attic insulation level. If you have less than 8 inches of insulation and have had ice dam problems before, add more. Building codes generally suggest about 12 to 14 inches of fiberglass or cellulose insulation. Fiberglass and cellulose fill more tightly around rafters, joists and other obstacles, leaving fewer gaps for air to escape. You can also add roof or soffit vents to draw in colder outdoor air and flush out warm, attic air.
If you still find yourself suffering from ice dams or frozen pipes that have burst, call in the professionals to help repair the damages. ServiceMaster Superior Cleaning & Restoration Services provides expert water damage mitigation and repair services throughout Fairfield, CT and Westchester, NY Counties!