Winterizing Your Home To Help Prevent Water Damage
As the warm days of summer quickly fade and the cold weather months draw near, it is important to protect your home, or vacation home from such elements as ice, snow and wind. Here are some important tips to follow:
- Eliminate drafts by closing off crawl spaces, vents and doors; especially under mobile homes. Repair broken or cracked windows, and check insulation and caulking around doors and windows.
- Shut off the water supply and drain outside sprinkler systems and hose bibs. Detach hoses.
- Insulate pipes in unheated parts of the home, such as the garage. Pipes close to exterior walls or in unheated basements can be wrapped with pieces of insulation or heating tape.
- Remove leaves and debris from gutters so melting snow and ice can flow freely and prevent “ice damming” – a condition where water is unable to properly drain through the gutters and instead seeps into the house causing water to drip from the ceiling and walls.
- Check the roof and make any repairs that are needed.
If a property is to be unoccupied for an extended period of time, or a vacation home will be closed for the season, experts recommend these additional winterizing tips are followed:
- Drain the water heater. Start this step first as it will take a while to drain.
- Empty and unplug the refrigerator and freezer. Prop open the doors to prevent a moldy fridge.
- Unplug all electrical appliances to avoid damage during thunderstorms.
- Prevent rodent infestation by removing any garbage from the home.
- Add anti-freeze solution to toilet tanks and sink traps to prevent the tank from cracking.
- Turn the heating system to the off position on the furnace or circuit panel to ensure the furnace does not inadvertently go on.
- Rake leaves and debris away from the foundation of the home. Left to sit during the winter months, this material would otherwise become a collection area for ice and water.
If you experience water damage in your home from a burst pipe or an ice dam, for example, here are some things you can do to help minimize the damage until a trusted restoration contractor arrives.
- MOST IMPORTANT – eliminate the source of water. Cleanup and restoration cannot begin until the origin is 100% addressed.
- Turn off circuit breakers to wet areas to prevent risk of electric shock. Unplug and remove electrical devices located on wet floors and surfaces. Do not operate electrical devices or equipment while standing on any wet surface.
- Turn off the HVAC system(s) if it has been in contact with any water or sewage to prevent spread of biohazardous materials throughout the entire property.
- Remove and secure small furniture and valuables to minimize direct damage to these items and the residual damage these items can cause when wet (such as stain transfer from wood items, rust stains from metal items, ink or dye transfer from paper and fabric). Remember to check under beds and in closets.
- Place aluminum foil under legs of wood furniture, especially antiques, to protect carpet and other furniture from staining. Do not place newspaper on any wet surfaces, newspaper ink transfers very easily to porous surfaces.
- Pin up dry draperies and furniture skirts to prevent contact with wet floor coverings to avoid watermarks, browning and dye transfer. Do not leave wet fabrics in place. Move fur or leather goods to a safe area to dry at room temperature.
- Try to minimize traffic on wet surfaces to minimize safety hazards and limit the spread of damage and potential contaminates.
- Make plans for restoration crews to remove large furniture items from affected areas. Do not attempt to dry on your own as improper techniques can do more harm and increase claim costs and restoration time.
- Wet floors are only the tip of the water damage iceberg. Proper water removal and complete structural drying is crucial to minimizing contamination, added expense and inconvenience.
Hiring trained water damage mitigation and structural drying professionals is safer, easier and less expensive than the cost of repair and replacement of property damaged during improper water mitigation efforts. It is also important to note that many standard insurance policies do not cover secondary damages – such as mold, one of the most common secondary effects of water disaster. Carriers often specify the policy holder must initiate “reasonable and prudent procedures necessary to mitigate the loss.” In other words, immediate action must be taken to protect the property from excessive damage and claim cost. If the insurance carrier determines proper steps were not taken in a timely fashion, it could be released from all financial responsibility – leaving the policy holder to absorb the full financial burden.
The Insurance Information Institute states, “Winter storms caused an estimated $3.5 billion in insured losses in 2015, up from $2.6 billion in 2014, according to Munich Re. From 1995 to 2014 winter storms resulted in about $27 billion in insured catastrophe losses (in 2014 dollars), or more than $1 billion a year on average, according to Property Claim Services (PCS).”
For additional information on winterizing your home, visit the Institute for Business & Home Safety’s DisasterSafety.org. Source: Insurance Information Institute. 2016. http://www.iii.org. ISO’s Property Claim Services unit (PCS).
Our article also recently appeared on the CAI-Illinois blog.