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11/30/2012 - Tips on how to get ready for this winter’s weather


Homeowners can take certain measures to protect their homes during winter.

Though there may be a few remaining days left of autumn, winter is at the doorstep, a time of year with severe cold snaps, blustery winds, and piles of snow. With this in mind, here are some suggestions home and business owners may want consider before the season officially arrives in late December.

"Winter weather can cause numerous problems from burst pipes to roof collapses to interior fires," said Julie Rochman, Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety president and CEO. "Taking steps now to prepare your home or business to withstand the effects of winter storms and freezing weather will help you avoid costly losses and possible business interruptions later."

1. Frozen pipes. Perhaps the most common problem business and homeowners come across is freezing pipes. While snow may be a rare sight in some portions of the country, temperatures can easily fall well below zero when conditions are right. And when the mercury falls significant depths, it dramatically increases the chances that water pipes may freeze, causing them to burst.

One of the easiest ways to reduce the chances of water pipes bursting is to crack the main faucet in the house so it leaks out droplets of water. This keeps the water lines occupied and dramatically diminishes the likelihood of their freezing because there's a consistent water flow.

Slightly more involved ways of minimizing this threat is by ensuring the spaces that surround water pipes are insulated enough when temperatures fall below 32 degrees. IBHS recommends insulating attic spaces, walls, vents and chases. Home and business owners should also look for wall cracks, which could compromise how warm the pipes within the walls remain.

2. Roof cave-ins. Every year, home and business owners file property insurance claims after their roofs cave in from excessive levels of snow. And the more snow that falls, the more stress is put on roofs.

If a roof is more than 20 years old, it should be replaced in as soon as possible. But even roofs that are relatively new stand the risk of caving in if there's a prodigious amount of snow covering it.

As a general rule, between 10 and 12 inches of new snow is the equivalent of about five pounds per square foot of roof space, IBHS notes. Because the typical roof should be able to support 20 pounds for every square foot, the roof should be able to support up to four feet of snow. Anything more than that, though and the roof risks collapse.

3. Ice dams. Not only does snow on the roof pose a cave-in risk, it also can lead to the formation of ice dams. Ice dams materialize due to the combination of warm temperatures within the home and the cold temperatures on the outside. As snow accumulates on the rooftop, some of the snow cover freezes over portions of the roof that are warm. But as this precipitation falls down a sloping roof, the water can freeze, causing an ice dam to form that leaks into the interior of the house.

For tips on how to prevent ice dams, click here for suggestions from IBHS.


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