As winter winds start to howl this season, taking a few simple precautions can save you thousands of dollars in repairs and fewer homeowner insurance claims. With temps in the single digits and below, the biggest risk is water damage created by pipes that become frozen and burst. While in most cases insurance companies will cover the cost of burst water pipes and the resulting havoc on your home, if the insurance company finds that you are responsible for the pipe busting, they may deny your claim. For example, if you leave the home without heat while you are on an extended vacation, you may have to pick up the cost of home repairs on your own. Fortunately, most of the damage caused by winter weather can be avoided by following a few simple tips.
- Wrap your pipes with material that can be found at your local hardware store. Pipe insulation costs less than 60 cents a foot (as opposed to a burst pipe that can set you back $5,000 or more).
- Keep your home thermostat set at no less than 65 degrees.
- Realtor.com recommends shutting off the valves to outside water spickets then open the outdoor spigot to drain off additional water.
- Know where the main water shutoff valve is located, just in case (getting the water turned off quickly can limit the damage).
- Heating and cooling systems typically last 15 years or more when well-maintained. Make sure you change your filters as the weather turns colder and have an annual inspection done by a reputable HVAC contractor. The Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests having your fireplace, chimneys, and heating equipment be inspected each year. There’s nothing worse than finding your heat is out on a night when you need it the most.
- Have an energy audit done by your local utility provider. A professional energy audit is a great investment for your home and your wallet, and could save you a ton of money on energy bills. They will check your door and window seals and even electrical outlets for drafts, and suggest simple fixes like spray foam insulation to solve the issue.
- Insulating your attic and crawl space can save you money on your heating bills, as well as protecting your home from developing ice dams on your roof that can lead to water damage.
- Keep out the critters who are searching for a warm place like your attic to ride out the winter. Animals can cause a lot of damage and, in some cases, create health problems. Trees need to be kept trimmed back away from the house, gable and chimney vents need to be intact, holes where birds and other small animals can get in need to be repaired, and you should do a visual inspection of the soffit and fascia surrounding your home
- Clogged gutters can cause water to back up and then freeze. Keep your gutters clear of debris and properly maintained to make sure that melting snow runs off your roof and down through the spouts.
- Check out the trees in your yard with sagging or weak branches that may fall, endangering people and potentially causing thousands of dollars in damage to your home. Call a reputable tree service or landscaping contractor to remove any dead or ailing branches.
- If you have a wood-burning fireplace, have it cleaned and inspected by a chimney sweep to make sure it is safe for use.
- Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and change the batteries or replace them with new ones if needed. Most home fires and carbon monoxide incidents happen in the winter months when the furnace is on and the home is sealed tight.
- Repair loose, damaged, or missing roofing shingles. A cubic foot of snow can weigh up to 25 pounds, creating pressure and damage that can allow water to leak into your home.
- Cover your patio furniture (preferably on a dry day) to keep moisture out.
- Check for loose patio or paving stones and cracked cement that will only get worse over the winter months as the ground freezes, thaws, and re-freezes. These things should be repaired in the fall to prevent more expensive repairs after a cold winter.
Heidi Stenson of Realty Ink believes that caring for your home is a great investment and that fall is the perfect time to start getting it ready for the colder weather. If you’re looking to buy or sell a home, Heidi is an agent who cares about your needs and wants and will do a fantastic job helping you find your dream home.
Call, Text, or Email Heidi Today at: Email Me or 248-330-5706