Winter Disasters and How to Avoid Them

In the Midwest, winter can seem to stretch on and on. Waking up to see snow in March isn’t uncommon in Nebraska. But while you are waiting for warmer days, make sure you protect your home against winter’s ravages. It is best to be proactive against winter weather rather than reactive.

 

Space Heaters

Many people use space heaters to help cut energy costs or accommodate roommates. In addition, space heaters are an excellent way to warm up cold rooms or provide extra heat. Unfortunately, space heaters can also be hazardous if not used properly. Never leave a space heater unattended, especially when children and pets are around, and don’t place it near drapes, shades, or bedding. While space heaters can serve an important function, following safety protocols is critical.

  • Always maintain a clutter-free, three-foot radius around the space heater.
  • Turn off the space heater before going to bed, leaving the house, or leaving the room for any length of time.
  • Never allow pets or children to be alone in the room with a space heater or too close to the unit.
  • Never run a space heater that has a frayed or cracked electrical cord.

 

Fireplaces

Winter is a notorious time for house fires, and it is vital to have working fire alarms around the house to alert everyone, but one of the main culprits is faulty fireplaces. Traditional fireplace and chimney maintenance is essential to keep your family and home safe. Have the fireplace, flue, and chimney inspected annually and cleaned by a certified chimney sweep. An inspection lets you know that everything is in good working order. You should also always make sure your fireplace is put out and cooled before going to bed.

 

Frost Heave

Frost heave is an upward swelling of soil during freezing conditions caused by increasing ice as it grows toward the surface. Ice growth requires a water supply that delivers water to the freezing front. The weight of overlying soil restrains the vertical growth of the ice and can promote the formation of lens-shaped areas of ice within the soil. The reason this is so serious is that it can crack your foundation. The most significant factor in causing frost heave are poorly maintained gutters. Clogged gutters or broken gutters will not properly disperse water and that moisture will accumulate near the foundation of your home. This could cause leaks, foundation damage, or other issues.

You can reduce the risk of frost heave by keeping your gutters clean and in proper working condition. Clogged or broken gutters won’t shed water away from the home’s foundation. Instead, the water pools, freezes, and then thaws — the frost heave cycle begins. Having your gutters cleaned and inspected before winter can help reduce the risk for frost heave damage.

 

Frozen Pipes

Few words strike more fear in the heart of a homeowner more than the words “frozen pipes.” A pipe that freezes, cracks, and then bursts can release hundreds of gallons of water per second and create a costly home repair. One of the easiest things to do is insulate the pipes with a protective “pipe sleeve” or installing UL-listed heat tape or heat cable.

 

Icicles

Giant icicles hanging from your gutters not only look dangerous, but they can indicate a severe problem — ice dams. An ice dam can form when snow on your roof melts and flows to the edge. This water then refreezes and blocks (or dams) the gutters and downspouts. Water that can’t flow through the gutters can seep under the shingles, causing water damage to the roof, attic, walls, and windows. Making sure your gutters are clean before winter can help; minor blockage equals better flow and reduced risk of damage.

At HomeWise, we’re here to answer your questions about preventative maintenance like gutter cleaning that can help reduce your risk of certain winter home disasters. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.