Water damage in your home can occur any time of the year, but there are specific issues in the cold winter weather. We’re not done with winter yet in the St. Louis area, so knowing how to prevent water damage from winter weather can save you from dealing with it. We’ve listed some areas that you should consider before it’s too late.
1. Prevent Freezing Pipes
When temperatures fall below the freezing mark, you stand the risk of your water pipes freezing. No matter if the pipes are made of plastic or metal, they are susceptible to bursting from the buildup of water pressure. The pressure is due to an ice blockage at the outside source of the water.
Pipes located along exterior walls are especially prone to rupture, especially when they are uninsulated. Pipes located in the attic, basement, garage or other unheated areas in the home will burst in freezing weather.
If you haven’t already done so, insulating water pipes in unheated areas now can prevent any further risk of bursting. Pipe insulation is available in several forms, including foam with rubber backing tape, foam-and-foil pipe insulation, bubble-film pipe wrap, foil-backed natural cotton and rubber pipe insulation tape. Most or all of these are available at your local hardware store.
Another way to prevent pipes from bursting in the freezing weather is to keep your indoor temperature at 55 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Even if you’re gone for an extended period, don’t try to save on heating bills by turning it lower. You may wind up spending lots more than that heating bill on repairing the damage resulting from burst pipes.
Letting a faucet trickle small amounts of water continuously is also a way to prevent freezing pipes. The dripping keeps water flowing through the pipe so it doesn’t have an opportunity to freeze up. You may also want to leave cupboard doors and bathroom cabinets that house water pipes to allow warm air to circulate there.
If your pipes actually freeze (and you’re lucky enough to catch it before they burst), you can thaw them out by applying a towel soaked in hot water or an electric heating pad around them. While they are thawing, running the faucet can help to gradually melt the ice.
2. Winterize Outdoor Faucets
Winterizing outdoor faucets is an important step in preventing bursting pipes. Ideally, this step should be done before temperatures fall below freezing, but it’s never too late if you’ve been lucky enough to avoid it this far.
Water faucets outside can be a major cause of freezing pipes. Hoses attached to them should be removed, drained and stored indoors. The valves that supply water to the outdoors should be shut off and left open to allow enough room for excess water to expand without breaking the pipes.
3. Inspect Your Gutters and Roof
Gutters serve an important purpose--to drain water running off of your roof down into downspouts and away from the home’s foundation. If you allow leaves and other debris to accumulate in the gutters, they can’t function properly. So keeping your gutters clean and clear throughout the year is advisable to avoid water seeping into the home through the foundation or cracks in the walls.
Freezing temperatures can throw another wrench into the mix. If your gutters contain debris, the water will not flow through them, so it can freeze. The ice is heavy and can weigh down the gutters and form an ice dam, causing stress on the roof. The water can get beneath roof shingles and damage them, resulting in roof leaks. You’ll see those leaks indoors on ceilings or running down walls. Water can also seep into your attic, undetected for an extended time, causing structural damage and mold.
The winter months also bring strong cold winds. These winter storms can rip shingles off your roof as well. Combined with rain or snow, water can seep through the damaged roof into your home. If you suspect water leaks, you may want to contact a roofing company to inspect and repair the damage.
It’s important to inspect your gutters and roof before the freezing weather arrives. Clean your gutters before the cold weather hits to keep the dangers of ice dams and roof leaks at bay.
Replacing faulty or worn shingles can minimize the need to replace the entire roof.
4. Check Water Supply Lines
There are various sources that supply water to your home. It’s advisable to check these lines at least once a year for leaks and wear and tear. The washing machine hose, hot water heater, ice maker in refrigerators and other appliances should all be checked and repaired, if necessary. The estimated lifespan for water supply lines is around five years. Replacing rubber hoses with steel ones may help them last longer.
5. Turn Off the Water Supply When You’re Away
If you plan to be out of town for an extended period of time, you should turn off the main water supply in your home. If the water isn’t flowing into the pipes, they won’t freeze. You may also want to arrange for someone to check your home periodically to make sure there aren’t any leaks.
6. Get Additional Insurance Coverage
Most homeowners insurance policies don’t include water damage from floods or sewer backups. You can add that coverage if you are concerned about that type of damage. Heavy rains or melting ice and snow can overwhelm the storm water system, resulting in sewage backing up into your house. Check with your insurance agent to see what is available.
7. Minimize Water Damage to Your Furnace
In the throes of freezing temperatures, one thing you don’t want to break is your source of heat. While any water damage is bad, having it damage your furnace compounds the situation. You may want to take some precautions to protect your furnace in the event of water leakages in your home.
Your furnace is probably located in a remote area of your home--the basement, utility closet or crawl space. You probably don’t even notice it much on a daily basis, so you may not notice water damage right away.
Protect your furnace by placing it on an elevated platform in the event that water infiltrates the floor around it. This can be a concrete block or a wooden pallet, depending on the location of the furnace. The addition 1-2 feet of protection from water can make a big difference unless there’s a massive flood, in which case you’ll probably need to evacuate anyway until it’s remediated.
Another way to minimize damage to your furnace is to install a water sensor placed near it. These sensors actually alert you when they detect water with a loud alarm or through an app on your cell phone. Some can even shut off your home’s main water supply to prevent additional damage.
If You Have Water Damage, What Do You Do?
You may have done everything you can to try to prevent water from infiltrating your home where it’s not supposed to be. Or you may have been a little lax in taking the steps necessary to prevent water damage. You notice spots on your ceiling, burst pipes, standing water in the basement or attic. Now what?
The most important thing to do is to call a reputable water damage restoration company immediately! Water can accumulate behind walls and underneath ceilings, so if it’s visible, you know you have a bigger problem. Don’t make the mistake of believing that by just drying up the excess water and wet areas that you’re fixing the problem.
Problems that can arise if you don’t immediately address the problem include:
Mold and Mildew.
Mold and mildew can grow very quickly in damp, warm environments. Unless the environment and its contents are dried thoroughly and properly, mold will grow and spread. Mold spores can float through the air and can be a health hazard for all people and pets who breathe it.
When water builds up in your walls and ceiling, it deteriorates the structure. Drywall, paint and wallpaper will start to soften and peel. Untreated, it can result in the ceilings and walls actually caving in, necessitating a lot of expensive reconstructive work.
Call the Professionals for Water Damage Restoration
No matter what the cause, if you’ve suffered water damage, you need to call for help immediately. St. Louis Cleaning and Restoration is available 24/7 for just such emergencies. We know that responding quickly minimizes the long-term effects of the water damage.
We have the equipment, knowledge and expertise to properly and thoroughly remediate your home and its contents. Often, furniture and rugs need to be removed from the home and treated in an off-site location. We have such a warehouse facility where we use industrial fans and other drying equipment to get the job done efficiently and effectively.
You can rely on the professionals at St. Louis Cleaning and Restoration to clean and restore your property to its pre-damaged condition. We are a preferred vendor for many major insurance companies. We’ll work with your insurer on remediating the damage within the boundaries of coverage.