Don’t look now, October has arrived. Fall is here and just beyond that is winter with all its wet, windy and cold excitement.
Are you prepared for the coming weather? Even if we have a mild winter it will likely bring several wind storms, lots of rain and a few nights cold enough to break a pipe. Having insurance is great when the unexpected happens but why not do a little preparation and try to avoid those problems if you can? No amount of insurance can pay for the disruption of life, the inconvenience, the noise, dust and people in your home for a month or two cleaning up and repairing property damage. Here are a few tips to prepare your home for the coming winter months.
1. Disconnect your hoses from the outside water supply. Many people mistakenly think that because they have a frost-free hose bib that they are protected from freeze damage. This is only partially correct. If we have a cold snap, the frost-free hose bib will most likely protect your home from an immediate, catastrophic flood when the pipe thaws out but, what normally happens is the frost-free tube (inside the wall) that prevents that major failure cannot drain out when the hose is connected and the water that is trapped inside the wall freezes, the pipe splits and now the timer has been set for a future water damage. In the spring, people go out to wash the car for the first time, pressure wash the driveway, water the garden etc. and when they are all done and go back in the house there is water all over the floor. What they didn’t know was that back in January when it was 20 degrees out and the frost free split, it didn’t leak until they turned the hose on to do their spring time cleaning and the house gets flooded out. Bottom line, disconnect your hose and put an insulator on the hose bib.
2. Clean your gutters. When the rains come, there will be lots of water running down the roof into the gutter trying to get down to the ground and run-off away from the house. The problem is that if your gutters are full of leaves, pine needles and toys thrown on the roof from last summer, the gutters get clogged, the down spouts are blocked and the gutter fills up and overflows. This can cause damage to the roof sheeting, fascia boards, siding, landscaping and so on. Potentially, the gutters could potentially come loose from the house and tear off under the weight of the water. Right this moment isn’t really the time but after the first good wind and most of the leaves are down it would be good to at least get a ladder and look to see if water is flowing. If you have the means, you might consider replacing your gutters with a style that has a filtering cover or add one to your existing gutters.
3. Debris build-up around dormers, chimneys, skylights or other roof details. If you have a roof that incorporates designs elements where debris can pile up or become trapped/lodged it would be an excellent idea to make sure those areas are clear. When you have an obstruction on the roof, it can slow the flow of water and cause it to pool or reverse direction flowing up under shingles, flashing or other penetrations through the main roofing materials. When this happens, you run a high risk of getting water coming in around these obstructed areas causing water damage to the interior of your home including the potential of starting a mold colony in the attic or other interstitial areas.
4. Inspect your landscaping to make sure you don’t have areas where ground water can be directed up against the side of your home or tree branches can allow water to run onto window sills or other horizontal surfaces.
5. Larger trees on your property might have limbs or sections that could fall and damage your home. Even a mild wind storm can take a limb large enough to do damage. Take a look at trees with large and overgrown branches that could catch a wind and fall. If you have trees tall enough that if they fell they would hit your home, you might consider having a qualified tree trimmer come look and make sure the trees are healthy and strong or perhaps cut them back a bit so at least they wont hit the house if they fall. Keep an eye on your neighbors trees too. There could be a potentially hazardous tree next door.
6. Exterior light fixtures and outlets can be a hazard if they are not clean and properly weather protected. If water or debris can enter in or around electrical components you could have a problem. This goes double for outlets where you may be plugging in Christmas or other decorative lights.
7. Fountains and water features need to be winterized. Turning the pumps off is not sufficient. You really need to take the pump out or remove all the water from the well that houses the pump. Cold weather will freeze the water and the expanding ice will damage pumps and water lines.
8. Have your heating system inspected and serviced. Waiting until a cold morning to have your furnace fail and then try to get a contractor out to repair it can be costly and very inconvenient. If you have rental or vacation property that is not occupied full-time you will want to really make sure those systems are working. It is not uncommon for an insurance carrier to deny a freeze break claim when the heating system in a home is inoperable.
9. Make sure your chimney is clean. If you burn wood in a fireplace or wood stove, be sure your chimney is clean, dampers are functioning properly, spark aresters are in place so you don’t have a fire start where you don’t want it. Additionally, if you live in a high wind area, you might consider having a wind screen installed to keep wind gusts from blowing down the chimney filling your home with smoke and embers that can do real damage.
Happy fall from your friends at Cleaner Guys!