Now that Chicagoland has had its first couple snows, it’s time to ensure that your house is protected against all the severe weather that’s still to come.
And we’re not just talking about weather stripping and insulation. We’re talking about the kind of protection that keeps the walls of your home standing and your family safe.
A few precautions can help protect you from serious losses and disruptions this season.
While home fires make headlines, water damage is more common and often just as severe. The most frequent cause is faulty or broken pipes. In fact, Fireman’s Fund Personal Risk Consultants see a surge in water damage during the first three months of the year, when pipes are most likely to freeze and burst.
Tips to consider:
- Be sure to insulate exposed pipes.
- If you leave your home—even just a weekend—always leave the heat on in your home and set it to at least 55 degrees.
- Have someone check on your home while you are away.
- Install an automatic water shutoff system.
Chimney and furnace fires
While fire presents a year-round risk, certain causes of fire occur more frequently during the winter. Chimneys, boilers and furnaces are particular risks.
Approximately 25,000 residential fires begin in a fireplace or chimney every year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Why so many? Over time, a layer of unburned carbon-based residues builds up along the inside walls of your chimney and can catch fire.
The solution is to have a trusted, professional chimneysweep clean and inspect your chimney annually.
An annual inspection is just as important for those with furnaces and boilers. And, remember, your furnace room should never be used for general storage.
Wood scraps, old books, paint, solvents and other flammable liquids are significant fire hazards and should be removed and stored elsewhere.
Ice dams and old trees
Snow and ice storms can create a number of potential threats to your home. One of these is ice damming, which occurs in the days after a snowstorm.
Icicles hanging from your eaves, while they may be beautiful, usually indicate that a dangerous ice dam has formed. When more snow melts and is trapped behind this ice, the resulting water backup can soak through your roof and cause damage to ceilings, walls and more.
The most common causes of ice dams are clogged gutters and insufficient insulation, both of which are easy to remedy.
Mature trees on your property represent another potential hazard during storms. Strong winds or frozen water that covers old branches with a heavy coat of ice can lead to failure and collapse, a clear threat to your home or other nearby structures.
- Consider installing an automatic water shutoff device.
- Prevent frozen pipe bursts by insulating exposed pipes.
- Have your furnaces and chimneys cleaned and inspected.
- Inventory your personal contents.
- Remove stored items and clutter from your furnace room.
- Set your thermostat to no lower than 55 degrees when you leave your house.
- Have your roof gutters cleaned and inspected.
- Replace insulation if necessary.
- Consult with an art professional to be sure your collection is protected. (For example, a professional may advise that you move art and collectibles a safe distance from heat sources.)
- Have mature trees inspected and maintained.
- Have salt/sand on hand for icy sidewalks and driveways.