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How to prevent winter damage to your home

January 4, 2016
Winter weather, including snow buildups close to the home, can cause severe damage to your house.

Snow, ice, frigid temperatures and heavy winds:  It may seem like they've become a part of life by now, but the truth is winter's only just begun. For most of the country, there's still several months of challenging weather ahead. In addition to the stress a cold winter climate can put on our bodies, all those cold nights and frequent storms can be hard on our homes.

Winter weather can lead to home maintenance nightmares such as ice dams, where snow melts and refreezes in clogged gutters. Ice that becomes trapped on the roof can find its way underneath shingles and into the home, causing roof damage, leaks and possible mold growth.

"Ice that is becomes trapped on the roof can find its way underneath shingles.”

When snow is allowed to build up around the foundation of the house, it can also send water into your basement as it melts. Certain landscaping or grading issues, as well as gutters that drain too close to the home, can contribute to this problem.

Ice and snow can also wreak havoc on walkways. If water works it's way into cracks in the pavement and refreezes, the expanding water may cause additional cracks or ruptures in the concrete. You may find yourself repaving or replacing the walkway with a more porous material such as gravel.

Another winter-weather related risk is fallen trees, which could cause damage to your roof or windows. In addition to your own property, be sure you're aware of any of your neighbor's vegetation that may pose a threat to your house.

Bracing your home for the winter

Before winter damage occurs, be sure to review your homeowners insurance policy. Read over the policy including any riders and exemptions so you know what is and isn't covered. Flood damage, for example, is often excluded from many standard home policies.

If snow or ice lead to a water-damaged basement, you may not be covered. Additionally, if your insurer finds the damage resulted from neglect, they may deny the claim. If for example, you left your house unheated while on vacation and your pipes froze and burst, your water damage claim may be denied.

"Read over your policy so you know what is and isn't covered.”

If your home has sustained significant enough damage to facilitate filing a claim, be sure to carefully document the incident as well as any conversations or interactions you have with your insurance company.

However, an even better idea is to take preventive steps before winter damage occurs. These measures include removing any trees or tree limbs that are hanging too close to your roof or windows. A thorough roof inspection that checks the condition of your shingles and gutters is also important. While on the roof, look for any cracks around skylines or chimneys and be sure the gutters are draining away from the home.

Be sure any exposed pipes are protected from the elements in order to prevent them from freezing. Closing off any external valves and removing all garden houses during cold winter months can also keep water, and subsequently ice, from getting in your pipes.