Severe Cold Weather Survival Checklist
Cold weather is a fact of life. Much of North America periodically experiences severe and sustained cold weather, with snowfalls interspersed with periods of melting and freezing. And these extremes can inflict considerable damage on homes, as well as create other hazards.
Here are some steps you can take to keep your home safe and make insurance losses less likely during extended severe weather.
Inside the House
- Keep your house heated to a minimum of 65 degrees. The temperature inside the walls where the pipes are located is substantially colder than the walls themselves. A temperature lower than 65 degrees might not keep the inside walls from freezing.
- Identify the location for the main water shutoff in your home. Find out how it works in case you have to use it.
- Open hot and cold faucets enough to let them drip slowly. Keeping water moving within the pipes will prevent freezing.
- If you use fireplaces, wood stoves and electric heaters, watch them closely and make sure they are working properly.
- Remember to close the flue in your fireplace when you’re not using it.
- When traveling, ask a neighbor to check the house regularly. If there is a problem with frozen pipes or water leakage, attending to it quickly could mean far less damage.
- If you plan to be away for an extended period of time, have the water system, including pool plumbing, drained by a professional to keep pipes from freezing or bursting.
Outside the House
- Keep sidewalks and entrances to your home free from snow and ice.
- Watch for ice dams near gutter downspouts. Ice dams can cause water to build up and seep into your house. Clear gutters of leaves and debris to allow runoff from melting snow and ice to flow freely.
- If you own a swimming pool and temperatures are expected to dip below freezing, run the pool pump at night to keep the water flowing through the pipes.
- Make sure all hoses are disconnected from outside spigots.
- If your garage is attached to your house, keep the garage doors closed. The door leading to the house is probably not as well-insulated as an exterior door.
- If ice forms on tree limbs, watch for dead, damaged or dangerous branches that could break loose when stressed by ice, snow or wind and damage your house or car, or injure someone on or near your property.
A Worst-Case Scenario
- If you discover that pipes are frozen, don’t wait for them to burst. Take measures to thaw them immediately, or call a plumber for assistance.
- If your pipes burst, first turn off the water and then mop up spills to avoid further damage.
- Call your insurance professional as soon as possible And familiarize yourself with the claims filing process.
Other Things to Know
Standard homeowners policies will cover most kinds of damage that result from a freeze. For example, if house pipes freeze and burst or if ice forms in gutters and causes water to back up under roof shingles and seep into the house. You would also be covered if the weight of snow or ice damages your house.
However, most policies do not cover backups in sewers and drains or flood damage, which can also happen in winter. To be covered for flooding, you need a separate flood policy from the National Flood Insurance Program, while coverage for sewers and drains is generally offered as an endorsement to a standard homeowners insurance policy.
If your home suffers water damage, it is important to make sure that it is properly dried and repaired to prevent any potential problem with mold. Remember, mold cannot survive without moisture.
Questions? Check with your insurance professional to learn more about what’s covered by your renters or homeowners policy.