Steps homeowners can take to prevent winter storm damage

Posted by Jim Pietro on Nov 18, 2011 11:27:39 AM

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This year's October surprise dumped an unprecendented amount of snow on the Northeast, leaving a trail of damage in its wake. Although it's the kind of favor we could have done without, it does serve as a reminder of the importance of preparing for nature's worst even as we hope for the best.

Here are some steps you can take to prevent storm damage to your home and prevent the injuries that can accompany snow and ice storms.

Ice dams. Remember last winter? Many people found themselves dealing with ice dams as a result of melting snow and freezing rain. In the most severe cases, the dams prevented the water from draining off the roof, and backed up into the house - damaging both the exterior and interior walls - and in some cases, producing mold.

How can you prevent ice dams - or at least minimize their impact? For starters, make sure you clear all leaves and debris from gutters and downspouts before a snowfall. Once the snow arrives, shovel around downspouts to allow them to drain - preventing a buildup in your gutters.

In storms with significant snowfall, it can be helpful to clear the snow off your roof before it has a chance to melt, refreeze, and create ice dams. If you have a long-handled rake that allows you to reach the roof from the ground, this can be a DIY job. However, if your roof is not accessible from the ground, it's much better to call a contractor than to risk a fall and injury.

By far, the most important step you can take is to analyze and correct underlying problems. Since ice dams are often a sign of inadequate insulation and ventilation, it's a food idea to have your home evaluated by an insulation contractor or energy consultant. Adding insulation prevents interior heat from escaping and causing the melting-refreezing pattern that produces ice dams. An added benefit is that a well-insulated attic can also lower your home heating costs.

Other ways to promote safety and reduce damage. Make sure to clear snow and ice from your sidewalks, steps, and entrances to your home to prevent injuries from slip-and-fall accidents. remove dangerous tree branches that could break off in a snow, wind, or ice storm - damaging your house or car or injuring a family member or passerby. If you use a fireplace, wood stove, or electric heater, make sure it's working properly and that you observe safety guidelines. If you go away, set the thermostat high enough to prevent pipes - including those in the walls - from freezing. It's also a good idea to have a neighbor, friend, or family member check your house regularly.

Dealing with a worst-case scenario. And what if despite all your precautions, the worst happens? Your first step should be to mitigate the damage. For instance, if your pipes should burst, turn off the valve and mop up the spills. Make a list and take photos of damage. Save the receipts for anything you spend to repair the damage. And last but far from least, be sure to call us as soon as possible. Most of the damage described here is covered by your homeowner policy. And we'll provide the information, advice, and support to help you sort it all out.

Topics: Jim's Blog, winterize home, ice dams, home insurance

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