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Weathering the Waterloo Region Winter: A Home Damage Prevention Checklist

winter home

The winter cold is coming. As we are sure you don’t really need reminding the average temperature in the Kitchener-Waterloo area between December 3 to March 10 rarely ever climbs above 36F. And it usually gets cold long before December hits anyway.

The are lots of things about winter – and even cold weather – in the Waterloo Region that are fun. Skiing, sledding, ice skating, even a stroll across a frosty park can be fun, as long as you are wrapped up nice and warm. And personally, we love nothing more than a trip to one of our area’s great outdoor skating rinks followed by a steaming hot chocolate.

But winter weather causes its fair share of problems as well, especially at home. Snow, ice and below freezing temperatures can wreak havoc on your home, something that can be especially troublesome if you are also trying to sell your Waterloo Region home and have just finished staging it to appeal to as many buyers as possible!

Not all winter weather problems can be prevented, or even foreseen, but taking some preventative measures right now can go a long way towards helping ensure that falling temperatures don’t spell disaster for your home.

Preventing Winter Ice Dams

What’s an ice dam? Ice dams form when the air in your attic is just warm enough to cause any snow and ice on your roof to thaw and refreeze repeatedly, causing pools of water to become trapped under layers of ice. These often then seep underneath whatever is covering your roof – tiles or shingles – and begin leaking into the attic itself.

How can you prevent such things?

DO: Keep the Air in your attic cool. This means ensuring that the attic floor is well insulated so that the heat rising from below does not turn it into a mini greenhouse.
DO: Seal all openings that would allow vapor to rise into the attic; this includes any holes created from installing light fixtures, ceiling fans and cable TV installations.
DON’T: Fill your attic full of clutter. Clutter prevents good air movement, leading to increased temperatures.
DON’T: Use salt to melt the ice on your roof. It tends to cause more harm than good, especially on shingled roofs.
DON’T: Climb up onto the roof to clear off snow yourself. Not only are you likely to cause damage to the roof but there’s a good chance you’ll damage yourself as well!

Using Foam, Drip and Dome to Ward Off Frozen Pipes

In Canada in the winter, water damage from frozen pipes is one of the most common reasons homeowners have to make an insurance claim. But in just three simple steps you can do a lot to prevent such a disaster occurring in your home:

Foam: Pipes need to be insulated and they need to be insulated well, most especially those that are in any way exposed to drafts. Fortunately, foam pipe lagging costs, on average, about $2 per six feet, and that is a small price to pay to keep things from freezing up.

Drip – A dripping tap can be annoying but it can also be the key to preventing ruptured pipes during a particularly cold snap. By allowing faucets to keep dripping, just a little, you will be releasing the pressure from the water system reducing the likelihood of a rupture if your pipes do begin to freeze.

Dome – Fit an insulating dome or other coverings over outdoor faucets and spigots also
reduces the likelihood of pipes freezing, expanding and bursting, resulting in problematic (to say the least) water damage.

Insulate and Insulate Some More

One of the biggest keys to helping your home – and you and your family – stay safe and warm in winter is to ensure that all of the warm air inside your home stays there and that as little of that biting cold air from the outside gets in as possible:

Look for – And Fix – Air Leaks Around Doors and Windows: The most common places air leaks are found in the home are around doors and windows. You can check for leaks in these places simply by using a lit incense stick. If smoke from the stick is sucked in towards a certain area as you move it around that indicates there is a leak and it should be caulked or weather-stripped ASAP.

Attention to the Attic – The most important place to insulate adequately is the floor of your attic. Ideally, the insulation should be at least 12-15 inches thick and without rips, holes or tears.

Worrisome Windows – If your home does not boast energy efficient windows that is an issue that also needed to be remedied ASAP. However, the winter months are not exactly the ideal time to do that. To ‘tide you over’ until the warmer weather returns and they can be replaced however a well-installed shrink wrap window insulation kit applied to each window will be a big help.

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