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How can I winterize my home?

Harsh winter elements such as ice, snow and wind can cause a great deal of damage to your home. Don't wait until winter weather strikes- here are some tips for protecting your home against the elements:

Homeowners should always be sure to:

(click on any topic to learn more)

Keep gutters clear of leaves
Prune trees and remove dead branches
Maintain insulation
Check pipes
Keep your home warm
Maintain heating systems
Keep steps and handrails in good condition
Become familiar with your plumbing
Have your home inspected
Prepare for when you are away


Keep gutters clear of leaves

Debris from trees, such as leaves, acorns and sticks, should be removed from gutters in order to allow for the free flow of snow and ice. ?Ice damming? is a condition where water and ice seeps into the home when not able to drain correctly through gutters. Ice damming can have devastating effects on the structure of your home, causing water to leak through the interior walls and ceiling. A great way to prevent blocked gutters is to install gutter guards which are screens that prevent debris from falling into the gutters and help maintain the flow of storm water away from your home and into the ground. Gutter guards can be purchased from most home improvement and hardware stores.

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Prune trees and remove dead branches

Harsh winter elements can cause major damage to trees and tree branches. Falling branches can cause damage not only to your home, but also cars and even people who are on your property. To prevent these types of accidents be sure to trim back the trees in your yard and remove any dead branches.

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Maintain insulation

A home that is not well insulated is susceptible to roof damage and even possible collapse. If an excessive amount of heat escapes through the attic it may cause snow or ice to melt on the roof and refreeze causing ice build up. Ice build up creates extra weight on your roof which can cause major structural problems and contribute to ice damming. Try to keep your attic five to ten degrees warmer than the outside air. Adding extra insulation to basements and crawl spaces also aids in the prevention of pipe freezing.

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Check pipes

Check your pipes on a regular basis for leaks and cracks. Having even minor pipe damage fixed promptly can prevent costly repairs in the future. Be sure to wrap pipes with heating tape and to insulate rooms that contain exposed pipes.

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Keep your home warm

In order to keep pipes from freezing, maintain an average temperature inside your home of at least 65 degrees. Pipes are located inside the walls of your home where a much colder temperature exists. Any temperature lower than 65 degrees inside your home can drop the temperature of your pipes low enough to cause freezing.

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Maintain heating systems

Heating systems and chimneys should be serviced at least once a year to ensure proper working condition. The proper use and maintenance of fireplaces, wood burning stoves and furnaces will prevent the chance of fire and smoke damage. Also, check the condition of smoke and fire alarms and think about installing a carbon 'monoxide' detector.

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Keep steps and handrails in good condition

A damaged step or walkway can become even more dangerous when covered with snow and ice. To prevent falls and serious injuries due to icy, snow covered steps and walkways, be sure to make repairs before inclement weather strikes.

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Become familiar with your plumbing

Do you know where your pipes are in your home and how to turn off the water to your home in the chance of an emergency? If your pipes happen to freeze and burst- time is of the essence. Become familiar with your pipes so that you can point a plumber directly to the problem. Learn how to shut off the water to your home to prevent costly water damage.

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Have your home inspected

Hire a general contractor to inspect your home for any structural damage. Have damages repaired immediately so further damage will not occur during sever winter weather. Also, be sure to ask the contractor about ways to protect your home against snow-related flooding and associated water damage. Some methods for preventing damage are to install plastic coatings for internal basement walls or sump-pumps which can prevent damage to your home and belongings.

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Prepare for when you are away

Many people plan trips to warmer places during the cold of the winter. What you may not realize is that while you are away, your home is still susceptible to the harsh winter climates. When water is not frequently being used in a home, it becomes easier for pipes to freeze and possibly burst. If you are planning an extended trip during the winter, consider hiring a professional to drain your pipes to prevent freezing. It is also a good idea to have someone periodically check your home for any damages to prevent extended repairs. Having activity in your home also decreases the chances of having it burglarized.

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Standard homeowners policies typically cover winter-related disasters such as burst pipes, ice dams, wind damage caused by the harsh winter elements.

Flooding damages are usually excluded from standard homeowner policies. Flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program (http://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program ) Ask your insurance professional about flood insurance, as well as ideas for protecting your home from winter elements.

Last Updated: July 15, 2009

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