According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, one of the worst winters in years is ahead for most of the United States with below average temperatures and abnormally high snowfall. Homeowners should consider the below tips to begin to prepare their homes for the cold months ahead and to avoid unnecessary claims.
1. Avoid ice dams.
Ice dams can form at the lower edge of your sloped roof when interior heat causes the snow to melt and refreeze. Once an ice dam forms, it blocks water from draining off the roof forcing the water inside, which can cause serious damage to your home's interior.
"Ensure the attic is properly ventilated and nicely insulated to minimize the amount of heat rising through the attic," said Paul Hurd, assistant vice president, National Property Product at Grange Insurance. "Homeowners should also seal air leaks in the ceiling so that warm air doesn't leak into the attic. In this case, cooler is better. Doing so will not only prevent ice dams from forming, it will limit cold air drafts and reduce energy bills."
2. Prevent bursting pipes.
Another potential cause of water damage is bursting pipes, which can happen when water freezes in a home's pipes. Secure insulation sleeves over any exposed pipes, seal cracks and holes near water pipes, and allow slow trickles of water to flow through faucets that are connected to pipes in unheated areas. If your home will be empty during the winter months, it is best to drain your water lines.
3. Keep sidewalks and driveways clear of ice and snow.
While your homeowner policy should have liability coverage, you can avoid claims by making sure your sidewalks and driveways are clear of ice and snow to prevent injuries. Try to shovel several times, even while it's still storming, so that snow doesn't get a chance to build up and bond to surfaces. Plus, it's much easier to shovel two inches of snow than five. Get down to the pavement beneath so that sunlight can warm it up and prevent ice from forming. In addition, use sandbox sand to add traction to slippery surfaces and prevent falls.
4. Properly shut down a vacant home.
For homeowners who close up a summer vacation home or leave for an extended period of time each winter, it is important to prepare before vacating. Homeowners leaving town should give a trusted neighbor a key so they can check the house periodically to account for any unforeseen damage and discourage burglars.
It is important that homeowners turn down their heat, but do not shut it off completely. They should also shut off water, clean out the gutters and arrange for snow removal services to clear sidewalks and driveways while the home is vacated.
5. Inspect heating systems and alternative heating sources.
Homeowners should inspect any heating systems, chimneys or other supplemental heating devices this fall. Although fireplaces, space heaters and wood stoves are popular heating sources, they require proper maintenance and caution to ensure safe operation.
"It is imperative to never leave wood stoves, space heaters or fireplaces unattended to prevent house fires," said Hurd "In the event of a house fire, call the fire department immediately. Once your family is in a safe place and accounted for, contact your independent agent to report the damage. He or she will help you file a proper claim."
6. Consider policy add-ons for further protection against harsh winter weather.
As weather pattern changes continue to impact insurance claims, homeowners should consider additional policy options to make premiums more affordable.
For example, homeowners should consider coverage add-ons for valuables damaged by water during a sewer, drainage or sump-pump back-up.
"Back-up of sewers and drains coverage provides coverage for losses caused by water which backs up through sewers or drains, or water that enters into and overflows from within a sump pump or sump pump well," Hurd said. "This coverage will provide peace of mind when winter storms approach this season."
Published with permission from RISMedia.