Ditch the Damage: Your Guide to Winterizing your Home This Season

The winter of 2014-2015 was one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record. The result: insurance companies paid the price as homeowners were saddled with addressing the damage. According to PURE Insurance, in 2015 there were more than 700 claims accounting for around 50 million dollars in losses, nearly 20 million dollars more than the claims the company experienced in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.1

Yet, with proper planning, these claims and the homeowner headaches that went with them could have been avoided, or at least largely mitigated. This article outlines common causes of winter weather related claims and provides practical advice on how to prevent them.

Unoccupied Homes

Regardless of whether it’s battening up your summer home on the shore, or closing the shutters on your main residence as you head south for the winter, it is critical to make sure that any unoccupied residence is thoroughly winterized. Here are several steps you can take to limit winter storm damage and thereby avoid higher insurance premiums and their associated personal stress.

  • Make sure pipes are well insulated When pipes burst, water will continue to flow until the problem is noticed. This can cause damage costing millions of dollars, especially in an unoccupied home where it is left to flow freely. Insulating your pipes is a generally reliable way to prevent them from freezing.
  • Install leak detection and an emergency water shutoff system A leak defense system will monitor the water flow in your home’s plumbing system. If a plumbing leak is detected, it turns off the water and notifies you of the problem before any serious damage can occur.
  • Address your irrigation systems Since outdoor plumbing systems are connected to your interior faucets, frozen outdoor pipes have repercussions indoors as well—putting pressure on indoor pipes and causing them to burst. Winterize your irrigation system by replacing outdated outdoor faucets with frost-free ones, removing your hose during winter months, and draining water from spouts by blowing them out with compressed air.
  • Make sure your pool is properly closed for the season The most important thing to remember when winterizing your pool is to drain the water under the skimmer. If this is not done, the water will freeze and expand. This can cause damage to the pipes and liner in your pool.
  • Defend against ice dams Ice dams form after heavy snowfall when heat radiating from a home causes the underside of a snow layer to melt. The melted snow drains along the roof until it cools and freezes into an ice dam, preventing future runoff from draining. Protect your roof by scheduling an inspection before winter hits, making sure your attic is ventilated, and having heated gutter cables installed.

Winterizing Your Main Residence

Although weather damage can be much worse in a vacant home, the winter months can cause just as much damage to your main residence. In fact, according to the Insurance Information Institute, water damage and freezing make up almost 22 percent of all home owners’ insurance claims. Make sure to follow the same precautions in your primary home as you do in your second home to ensure that damages don’t occur or are at least minimized.

1 http://www.puresituationroom.com/insights/2015-11-09-winter-insights