6 Ways Winter Can Damage Your Home And How To Fight It

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Winter can be a tough season. Wind, snow, and hail combined with bone-chillingly low temperatures are hard on us human beings … but did you know they are equally hard on your house? Find out how winter can damage your home and what you can do to fight back.

  1. Threat of Roof Collapse

PROBLEM: The threat of roof collapse is a homeowner’s nightmare. Although properly installed roofs are built to stand up to normal winters, a violent snowstorm – or several milder storms – can pile on quite a load. (Wet, compacted snow weighs up to  20 pounds per cubic foot.) Your roof’s pitch plays an important role in how well it’ll withstand heavy amounts of snow; a slope of at least 4 inches per foot is optimal.

SOLUTION: If you have a flat roof or you notice snow piling up around obstructions (like a chimney or dormer window) on your pitched roof, clear it with an extendable snow rake. Next year before snow season begins, schedule a roof inspection -- especially as your roof approaches the end of its lifespan (20 years for America’s commonest roofing material, asphalt shingles).

  1. Structural Shift

PROBLEM: Excessive snow weight on the roof could also cause the structure of your house to shift. Be alert to any of these symptoms: sagging roofline, damage to roof rafters, new cracks in drywall or plaster walls (particularly on upper floors and/or near the center of your home) and doors which suddenly become difficult to open.

SOLUTION: Call in an expert ASAP to evaluate and repair structural damage to the roof and the rest of your home.

  1. Ice Dams

PROBLEM: An ice dam is a ledge of ice on the outer perimeter of your roof, which keeps precipitation from draining and eventually leads to leaks. The most common cause is heat from the interior of your house; after this heat melts the snow on your roof, the liquid will refreeze into an ice dam when it’s exposed to lower temperatures.

SOLUTION: Insulate your attic against heat transfer and keep roof drainage systems – gutters and downspouts – in good repair, clear of debris such as fallen leaves. Removal of an ice dam, once it has formed, must be done with extreme caution. Break the ice up carefully with a blunt tool (for example, a mallet) to avoid piercing the roof shingles.

  1. Frozen Pipes

PROBLEM: When your plumbing (actually, the water in your plumbing) freezes due to low, low temperatures, the consequences are far from pretty. Water expands as it freezes, and the increased volume puts pressure on the system until you end up with burst pipes … and usually, a huge mess of water damage to your home.  

SOLUTION: Outdoors, drain and detach hoses from outside faucets. Drain sprinkler and swimming pool lines, too. Inside the house, keep pipes warm – insulate and expose them to ambient temperatures of 50 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, by opening cupboard doors and leaving your heating on (at a low setting) if you go away for a few days.

  1. Foundation Cracks

PROBLEM: As your house settles, hairline cracks naturally tend to appear in its foundation. This is usually not a major deal … until wintry freeze-thaw cycles expand these cracks in a big way.

SOLUTION: Clear snow buildup away from the foundation so it won’t hold in damaging moisture. As soon as the sunny spring weather comes along, get those cracks sealed by a professional before they have a chance to grow any bigger.

  1. Driveway and Sidewalk Wear and Tear

PROBLEM: Your driveway and sidewalk are also at risk in wintertime. They may crack due to frost heave, while over-vigorous snow removal might break off chunks of your concrete or asphalt. Applying salt as an ice melt will also damage the surface, not to mention the harm it does to your pets, your yard, and the environment as a whole.

SOLUTION: Seal against cracking with a non-toxic, no-VOC sealant. Shovel carefully with a plastic-bladed tool; metal blades can cut into your drive or walk. Find an alternative non-salt ice melt that is environmentally safe.

Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.

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