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4 Potential Home Hazards from Freezing Temperatures

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The winter of 2022-2023 started with a bang, with several regions of the nation experiencing heavy snowfalls, high winds, and bitterly cold temperatures. Snow and subfreezing temperatures can damage your home inside and out. Here are potential hazards from freezing temperatures and tips for protecting your home.

Home Hazards from Freezing Temperatures

Home hazards caused by winter weather occur when high wind, heavy snow, or freeze-thaw cycles cause leaks, plumbing issues, or property damage. Some of the most costly hazards related to winter weather involve water damage. 

Here are common types of winter weather damage to prepare for:

Ice Dams

Heavy snow, ice, and freezing temperatures can damage your roof. If you see a sheet of icicles hanging from a gutter, that’s an ice dam caused by melting snow. While they may be picturesque, ice dams can damage gutters, loosen shingles and cause water leaks. High winds can rip off shingles, making your roof less waterproof. 

Reduce the risk of ice dams by clearing leaves and debris from your gutters in the fall. Clean gutters allowing melting snow to drain from the roof. Remove an ice dam while standing on the ground by raking snow off your roof with a long-handled rake. Another option is to apply a de-icing agent to the gutter. 

Frozen Pipes

If there is only a trickle of water when you turn on a faucet, that indicates a frozen pipe. Frozen pipes can be one of the most costly and damaging weather-related problems. Pipes freeze in unheated homes, but uninsulated pipes near an exterior wall can freeze even with the heat on. Because water expands when it freezes, a completely frozen pipe can burst, flooding your home.

  • Before winter arrives, insulate exposed pipes with heat tape or foam pipe insulation. Turn off the water for outside faucets. On bitterly cold days, turn the faucets on to let water trickle through, and open cabinet doors so warm air from the room can reach pipes under the sink.
  • Turn off the nearest water supply to a partially frozen pipe that lets through only a trickle of water. Use a blow dryer or heater to warm up the frozen pipe.

What to do with Water Damage

You’ll need to act quickly to minimize the damage if a pipe bursts or you’ll have other water damage. 

SERVPRO, a leading water damage restoration company, recommends the following tips for managing water damage.

  • Shut off the water source
  • If you can do it safely, turn off circuit breakers for wet areas of the home. 
  • Mop or blot up excess water
  • Remove upholstery cushions and prop them up to dry
  • If there is wet carpeting, place aluminum foil or wood blocks under furniture legs

Home insurance typically covers damage from freezing, so notify your insurance company and call in professionals if you need them. The experts at SERVPRO inspect and assess the damage, use specialized equipment to dry surfaces and furniture, and manage the restoration and sanitation process.

Other Home Hazards from Freezing Temperatures

While water damage is a significant risk, severe winter weather cause other common problems.

Damaged Driveways

Keeping your driveway clear in icy weather is a priority, but shoveling and using de-icing agents can lead to chips and cracks in the pavement.

For best results, use a rubber-edged shovel. Don’t use rock salt on a concrete driveway as it can cause pits and craters. Asphalt handles salt better than concrete, but use magnesium chloride or calcium chloride for a more eco-friendly deicer.

Drafty Doors and Windows

Extreme cold damages the caulk around windows, allowing drafts to come in. Wet weather can lead to wood rot in door frames, making them vulnerable to termites.

When the weather warms up, inspect your windows and doors for damage. Reapply caulk if needed and repair or replace door frames.

Help Your House Survive Cold Weather

The Insurance Information Institute provides these tips for minimizing the risk of severe weather. 

  • Keep the temperature in your home at least 65 degrees.
  • Turn faucets on and let them drip slowly in frigid weather.
  • Locate your home’s main water shutoff.
  • Keep sidewalks and porches clear of snow and ice.
  • Keep your garage doors closed.
  • Remove dead or damaged tree branches so they won’t break from the weight of ice.

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