If you haven’t done so this year, it’s time to do a little preventive work—it’ll keep you safer, warmer, and maybe even help you save some $$.
Inside the house
Prep the plumbing
Turn off the water supply to outdoor spigots and sprinkler systems to avoid burst pipes. Install pipe insulation in unheated areas of your home.
Check the chimney
Have your fireplace chimney cleaned and inspected yearly to ensure it’s not a fire hazard and that there are no critters making it their home.
Stay on alert
If you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector, get one right away. Make sure to test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors and change the batteries. The U.S. Fire Administration states that smoke detector batteries should be replaced at least once or twice a year. If you don’t use the annual time changes to help you check every year, try making January a new year/fresh start reminder.
Give your furnace a checkup
Start out by changing your filter—it will help your furnace run more efficiently. If you haven’t had it professionally checked in the last two or three years, make an appointment.
Protect entryway flooring
Between the tracked-in snow, ice, road salt, and sand, entryway floors can really take a beating in the winter. Increase the longevity of your flooring and prevent slipping by using floor mats both inside and outside of each entrance to your home. A boot scraper or brush outside can help remove excess snow, and a waterproof tray inside is great for placing wet shoes and boots.
Check your emergency supplies
With winter storms comes more potential for power outages. Be prepared with fresh bottled water, shelf-stable foods, flashlights, batteries, first-aid supplies, and a hand-crank radio.
Boost your home’s energy efficiency and save money by checking and repairing caulking around doors, windows, and anywhere something penetrates a wall. Check weatherstripping on doors and windows and seal cracks in foundation walls.
Outside the house
Ice is great for skating, fishing, and cooling a beverage, but icicles hanging along the eaves of your house may be a sign of trouble. Icicles and ice dams are a sign that you have insulation and/or ventilation issues in your home.
Simply knocking down icicles won’t solve the problem. Ice dams can loosen shingles, rip off gutters, and allow water to infiltrate your home. If that happens, you’ll likely have damage to your walls, ceiling, floors, and attic insulation.
Here are a few ways to help prevent icicles and ice dams:
- Keep your attic cold. Properly insulate your attic floor and be sure your attic is adequately ventilated. Install roof vents, gable vents, and/or soffit vents to ensure a well-ventilated space. An added bonus—insulating can help lower energy bills.
- Clear your gutters of leaves and debris so melting snow can drain out. If you didn’t take care of this before winter, be sure to do it in the spring and again in the fall. Consider gutter guards or hiring a service to prevent build-up and to help you avoid getting up on the roof.
- After a heavy winter storm, remove a layer of snow at least three feet above the gutter line with a long-handled aluminum roof rake while you stay safely on the ground. A rake with wheels will help prevent roof damage.
Don’t chip at ice dams with a hammer, ice pick, or shovel. It’s dangerous and can often do more harm than good. And never use salt to melt the ice. This may damage your plantings and roofing material.
Beth Gold, Claims Representative, explains, “Water damage from ice dams is generally covered on your home insurance policy but exclusions may apply. Be sure to read your policy carefully and contact your insurance company right away if you have damage.”
Driveways are an often overlooked area of your home—until there’s a problem. Keeping it maintained can help you avoid repairs and save money. Here are a few things you can do to take care of your driveway during the winter.
- Minimize water on the driveway by clearing a two to three-inch strip of snow around the edges to provide a runoff area for snow and water. This can help reduce the chances of water penetrating the surface.
- Ensure downspouts empty into the yard rather than onto the driveway.
- For both sidewalks and driveways, don’t use cement salt or chemical de-icers, as they can penetrate surfaces and cause cracks. Instead, use a snowblower or shovel to remove snow, then use alternatives like sand, coffee grounds, alfalfa meal, or kitty litter to make surfaces less slippery.
- Raise the blade of your snow plow enough so it doesn’t scrape and damage the driveway surface. If shoveling, use a plastic shovel for uneven surfaces to reduce the risk of it catching on the driveway.
Beth adds, “A lawsuit can be very costly if you don’t prevent people from tripping on cracks and uneven surfaces, especially if you don’t have umbrella insurance. It’s inexpensive and the added protection can be well worth it.”
If you do experience home damage this winter and have your home policy with us, give us a call.
Prep for safe winter driving
Be ready for the snow before you go. Every vehicle should have an emergency supply kit in the trunk. Check your kit twice a year and replace items as needed.
- Water and snacks
- First aid kit
- Jumper cables or portable jump starter
- Road flares
- Warm clothes, mittens, boots, blanket
- Snow brush
- Ice scraper
- Full tank of gas
- Cell phone charger
- Sand/cat litter and shovel
511wi.gov is a free website that provides information to help you make smart traveling decisions, check traffic speeds, or plan a trip. Stay informed about road conditions before you leave the house and while you are on the road.
We’re here to help
Lastly, make sure you’re properly insured. Not all policies are the same so be sure you understand what you have or what you are purchasing so you won’t find yourself short on coverage when you need it.