Is Your Home Winter Ready?

If you are a homeowner that lives in a climate that includes cold winters, you know the challenges the cold season can create for you.  Without winter home readiness, minor to severe damage can occur to the home, causing unsafe situations for homeowners as well putting themselves into a financial hole.  In this reading, we discuss a few hazards that homeowners can encounter during the winter season as well as proper steps to take for prevention.

Ice Dams

This refers to a ridge of ice that has formed along a roof and prevents the draining of water from melting snow off the roof. The pooling water that backs up can find its way into the home , causing interior deterioration and decay to walls, ceilings, insulation and other areas.  After a one time formation, your roof can become more susceptible to future ice dams and interior damage to the home.

One of the most frequent causes of an ice dam is when too much heat rises from the home to the roof.  This causes uneven temperature throughout the roof, with the highest area being warmer, melting the snow, and the lower cooler areas, particularly the roof edge, resulting in the build up and freezing of water. Inadequate insulation allows heat to escape into the attic which creates a warmer roof. Improper ventilation in the home creates moisture and heat buildup due to the lack of air movement.

To detect an ice dam on your roof, compare the way the snow is melting from the living area of your home to unheated roof areas such as a garage or shed.  Compare the melting of your roof to those of your neighbors homes.  Also, check for icicles, as heavy icicle buildup means that interior heat is melting a lot of snow and may contribute to ice dams.

How To Prevent Ice Dams

  • Hire a roof professional to clear excess snow from the roof.
  • Hire a roof professional to add rubberized or special roofing adhesives to help prevent pooled water on the roof from finding entry into the home’s interior.
  • Inspect the attic and roof for cracks, holes, or joints that permit warm air to escape to the roof, and seal or repair these areas.
  • Ensure there is adequate insulation, sealing gaps that let warm air from the home pass into the attic.
  • Reduce your home’s thermostat and wear warmer clothes during cold spells.
  • Clear your gutters and downspouts often so that water is properly shed off your roof.

Heating Systems

Homeowners who experience the cold winter season, heat up their homes with fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, portable heaters, or gas and electric furnaces.  Prior to the arrival of heating season, it is important to make sure you are using the listed heating systems safely and properly. Keep on top of furnace inspections to make sure it will operate properly.  Furnace filters and vents need to be kept clean to prevent fire loss. In addition to fire loss, it is important to to have an inspection to make certain that your furnace is not creating fatal carbon monoxide build-up.

Fireplaces and wood-burning stoves should also be inspected.  Never do the inspection yourself, hire a professional to inspect and clean your fireplace. Creosote, a tar-like byproduct of burning wood, builds up in chimney and stove flues very quickly.  It is important to avoid burning softwood or paper, so burning anything other than hard wood exposes your fireplace or stove to rapid creosote build up, which can clog or crack a flue or liner.  In addition, be very careful with the use of portable heaters. Depending upon the type, they can result in malfunction or could be a hazardous for children.  Finally, make sure you have fire/smoke and carbon monoxide detector in your home.  They are a small expense.  Make sure that they are properly installed and working by doing frequent tests and putting in new batteries when needed.

Creating A Clear Liability

Snow inconveniently covers homes, sidewalks and driveways. As a responsible homeowner you should clear your walkway and driveway when there is snow and ice.  It is also important to remove tools and other items from property because it only takes a small amount of snow to hide them. Keep in mind walkways and stairways are meant for pedestrians to use, so they must be kept clear and safe, from snow and especially from slippery ice. Also, avoid creating large piles of snow when shoveling, as it can get in the way of a driver or pedestrian’s view. Last, be sure that your property is safe for children who are enjoying the snow. Keep an eye on children, assuring that they stay away from motorized traffic or other pedestrians.  Do not allow snow or ice balls to be thrown at cars (you could be sued for any accident caused by careless play).

Remember visitors should be kept safe from any harm inside of your home.  Be sure to keep interior stairs and floors clear of the watery remains of melted snow after walking through the home with wet shoes or clothes.  Use mats in an area to provide good traction and where visitors can wipe snow and ice from their shoes.

Talk with your insurance professional regarding winter safety and other insurance information and never hesitate to discuss your questions.  

If you have any questions about your existing policy, are inquiring information about a possible future policy or need further information, please call us at (631) 738-7300 or get a quick quote at

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