Prevent winter weather-related homeowners insurance claims - Part 1

Frigid temperatures increase the risk of fire from home heating equipment and water damage from burst pipes. Consider these tips to protect your home:

Heating Equipment:

  • Verify the furnace, fireplace, wood stove and/or space heater are in proper working order before bad weather arrives. Clean and service as needed.
  • Move anything combustible (home d├ęcor, newspapers, furniture, etc.) at least three feet away from the heat source.
  • Burn only hardwood in the fireplace or wood stove to prevent creosote build-up.
  • Stay in the room when using the fireplace, wood stove or space heater.
  • Properly discard cooled ashes from a fireplace or wood stove in a sealed metal container.
  • Never use the kitchen stove or oven to heat the house.

Water Pipes:

  • Find the main water shutoff and know how it works.
  • Insulate water pipes running through unheated spaces (basement, garage, attic) to prevent them from freezing.
  • Let faucets drop when temperatures tumble to keep water flowing through water pipes.
  • If a pipe freezes, turn water off at the main shutoff valve and call a plumber right away. You may be able to avoid water damage by thawing the frozen pipe before it bursts.
  • Keep the inside temperature at 65 degrees so water pipes in exterior walls stay warm.

The exterior of your home is vulnerable to damage from winter weather too. Keep gutters and downspouts clear of leaves and debris so water can quickly flow off the roof. Water that cannot get away may back up under shingles and refreeze. This can result in damage to walls and ceilings. Properly insulate and ventilate the attic so warm air can escape. Snow on the roof warmed by air in the attic may melt and refreeze, causing ice to back up under the shingles. Melting ice may seep into the house and cause interior damage. Hire a professional to remove excessive snow (1 - 2 feet) or ice (4 inches). Roof joists may collapse under a massive accumulation of snow or ice. Trim overhanging tree limbs to avoid roof damage from heavy, snow or ice-covered falling branches. Properly attach, repair or replace loose shingles and siding as needed. A strong wind may rip unsecured singles or siding off the home. Place outdoor equipment in a wind protected location.