As winter is on our door steps it’s a good time to discuss your home insurance. During the winter we see some of the worst claims occur as the results of flooding, freezing pipes and slip and falls just to name a few. Fortunately many of them can be prevented with a little maintenance.
An ice dam is a wall of ice that forms at the edge of the roof. When heat from inside melts the snow on the roof, water runs down and refreezes at the roof’s edge and eaves troughs. Eventually, the ice builds up and blocks water from draining off the roof. This, in turn, forces the water to seep under your shingles and flashing making its way into your home and can cause thousands of dollars of damage. There are a few things you can do to prevent this buildup. First, before the winter hits, clean out your gutters. Remove leaves, sticks and other debris so that the water can flow freely. If your roof is in an area that is susceptible to lots of debris, consider installing gutter guards to prevent it from happening in the first place. A well-insulated and ventilated attic is also important to help prevent ice dams from building up
Frozen water in pipes can cause pressure buildup leading to pipes bursting. Pipes in attics, crawl spaces and outside walls are particularly vulnerable to freezing. When a pipe bursts, damage can happen very quickly and will continue to worsen until the problem is solved. Damage from burst frozen pipes can allow water to flow into the ceilings and walls of a structure. Take the following precautions to help keep water in pipes from freezing:
Ensure that pipes near your home’s exterior are well insulated;
Make sure that any holes in your home’s exterior are sealed (e.g. cable lines, phone lines, etc.) to reduce the potential for the cold weather coming in to cause havoc with your pipes;
If you have any unheated spaces in your home, keep a slow trickle of water flowing from faucets.
Test plumbing shut-off valves to ensure they are working and to prevent them from seizing.
Check with your insurance company or independent insurance broker on how your policy would respond in the event of freezing pipes. Most policies stipulate that during the normal heating season, if you are away for more than 96 hours you need to arrange for a competent person to enter your house daily to make sure the heat is on or the water supply needs to be shut off and water drained from all systems and appliances.
Once the snow starts to melt in the spring you want to make sure it doesn’t seep into your home and cause water damage. Most Insurance policies exclude damage caused by water seepage through foundations, doors and windows. Here are a few steps you can take to minimize the risk of flooding:
Shovel snow away from the house, especially basement windows and doors.
Check your property for obstructions that could prevent melting snow from draining away from the house. Clear a path for the water.
Check catch basins on the street to ensure they are not obstructed.
Buildings and People
Here are more tips to help minimize your risk and prevent potential losses:
When using fireplaces, stoves or space heaters, ensure there is proper ventilation. Keep flammable material away from space heaters and do not overload electric circuits.
Have your heating system serviced. Furnaces, boilers and chimneys should be serviced at least once a year to prevent fire and smoke damage.
Ensure tree and shrub branches are well away from the house and windows. Icy conditions can cause branches to break and damage your home.
Keep snow clear of oil tanks, gas meters, gas appliance vents, exhaust vents, basement windows and chimneys.
Shovel and put sand or salt on icy walkways. If someone slips and falls on your icy steps, you may be held liable for their injuries.