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Water Restoration Published January 29, 2020Last Updated February 21, 2020

How to Prevent Winter Water Damage in Your Home

Freezing temperatures and the accumulation of snow in winter can cause serious water damage to your home. Water pipes can freeze and burst, ice dams can form on your roof, and thawed snow can infiltrate your home, causing water damage. Follow these safety measures to prevent water damage to your home in winter.

Prevent Frozen Pipes and Pipe Bursts

Pipes in the crawl space, outside walls, and in the attic are vulnerable to freezing and bursting in cold temperatures.

  • Close all cracks, holes, and openings in outside walls and foundation, near water pipes, with caulk.
  • Insulate water pipes in unheated areas, such as the crawl space, basement, garage, attic, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Wrap them in insulating materials such as foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves.
  • Faucets that connect to pipes in unheated spaces are prone to freezing. Let cold water drip from the faucets served by exposed pipes. Running even a trickle of water through pipes helps prevent them from freezing.
  • Allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing when outside temperatures drop below 32 °F by opening kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors. Move the products stored in these cabinets up, out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Set the thermostat to the same temperature during the day and at night. Your heating costs may rise, but you’ll prevent pipes from freezing and bursting.
  • If you’re leaving home for more than two days, leave the heat on in your home. Set the temperature to no lower than 55 °F. Shut off the water supply and drain pipes and appliances that use water. In addition, have someone you trust check your home once per week.
  • If a pipe bursts, shut off the water supply to your home immediately.

Prevent Ice Dams

Ice dams take form when warm air in the attic heats the roof and melts the snow on the roof. The melted snow collects on unheated eaves and starts freezing, creating ice dams. If you don’t prevent or remove ice dams, the result will be winter water damage to your roof and home.

  • Have your gutters and downspouts cleaned, inspected, and repaired before the snow starts to settle. Doing this ensures that water will flow unobstructed in your drain system.
  • Insulate your attic properly — heat in the home should not reach the attic. Warm air can melt the snow on the roof, which refreezes, forming ice dams. Make sure the attic floor is airtight by sealing any openings.
  • Provide enough ventilation to the attic to keep the roof cool. Warm air should escape through vents near the top of the attic. Cold air should flow in through vents near the eaves. The temperature in the attic should be 5 to 10 °F warmer than the outside temperature.
  • Remove the snow on your roof when it’s about six inches deep. Use a roof rake or a long-handled brush to remove the snow without a ladder.
  • Install a water membrane underneath the roof shingles. It helps prevent water from seeping in.
  • Install a snow shield to prevent leaks. The shield goes under the shingles, starting from the low edge of the roof and extending up at least three feet inside the exterior wall of the house.
  • Install gutter screens to help keep out the debris that causes build-up and damage.

Prevent Spring Thaw Water Damage

Melting snow and ice can enter your home through the roof or foundation when spring arrives. Follow the winter water damage tips below to prevent that from happening.

  • Remove the snow from your roof:
    • Heavy snow on roofs can cause ice dams, which creates structural damage to the roof.
    • Remove the snow from the roof when it’s at least 6 inches deep.
    • If possible, stay on the ground to shovel the snow off the roof. Otherwise, hire a professional.
    • More tips for removing snow from roofs can be found here.
  • Shovel snow away from your home to prevent water from seeping into the foundation.
  • Keep the sewers clear of snow and debris to allow melted snow to flow unobstructed.
  • Check your basement often for water leaks from sewer drains. Make sure the basement floor, walls, windows, and doors are properly sealed.

Other Winter Water Damage Safety Tips

  • Condensation — If you notice condensation on windows, pipes, or walls in your home, dry out the area immediately. Prevent condensation by lowering the humidity in your home or by fixing leaks if there are any.
  • Install water leak detectors anywhere a water problem may occur, such as on sump pumps, near water-bearing fixtures, and behind or beneath pipes.
  • Check water supply lines yearly for leaks. Inspect your hot water heater, washing machine, ice machine in your refrigerator, and other appliances that can leak.
  • Get sewer backup coverage, which is usually not included in your homeowner’s insurance. Heavy rains and melting snow can overload your stormwater system, causing water or sewage to back up into your home.
  • Disconnect outdoor hoses if you aren’t using them. Having your hoses disconnected will prevent water from freezing in the line and creating a blockage that can cause backflow.

For water damage restoration in winter, call the PuroClean disaster restoration experts

As you can see, there are many ways that water can damage your home during cold weather. Follow these preventive steps to avoid dealing with water damage claims in your home. Yet, if water has still affected any of your belongings, you will need professional restoration services. For emergency flood repair and water removal services, contact your local PuroClean office.