The recent treacherous threat of ice hitting Iowa has me thinking about protecting our houses from the elements. With the expectation this time of year for more brutal winter weather over the next few months, it’s crucial to protect your home. Whether you’re in a new or not-so-new home, snow and ice can wreak havoc on your house if you haven’t taken the time to conduct some winter maintenance.
Here’s what to do to protect your home from the damage of snow and ice.
Gutters and Downspouts
Clean gutters and downspouts — ideally before winter — to prevent water from backing up and ice from forming in them.
Direct downspouts away from the house so when the snow in your gutters melt, it doesn’t collect around the foundation.
Sidewalks and Steps
Spray a anti-icer/de-icer solution on steps and sidewalks before ice or snow falls.
Melting Snow and Ice
As snow starts to accumulate around your house, remove it from near doorways, window wells and around the foundation. Melting snow turns into water, which can in turn cause water damage to your house.
Keep an eye on the snow load on your roof. If your roof sags, or you hear cracking or popping noises, or even if you just notice a large amount of snow accumulation, you may need to call a roofing contractor immediately to clear the snow. Keep in mind your roof can collapse from heavy snow or ice build-up.
Another potential hazard is snow/ice accumulation on trees, which can cause them to fall and cause damage to your house. Keep your trees well trimmed all year.
Disconnect exterior hoses from the faucets, and wrap pipes exposed to the exterior with weather-resistant insulation to prevent them from bursting. When temperatures hit their lowest, it can also help to keep the water on interior faucets running at a trickle, and to keep cabinet doors open to keep the pipes warm. If ever you suspect a frozen pipe, shut off the water main and contact a plumbing professional.
Seal cracks and holes in the walls and around the foundation. Make sure the grade around your house slopes downward away from the foundation to encourage water to flow away from the house. Installing a sump pump in the basement works well as a backup in case water does come in.
Keep a proper amount of insulation in your attic. See this resource for an explanation of how to determine how much insulation you need in your home.
A note on ice dams: keep in mind that ice dams occur when heat from the house escapes and warms the roof. This causes the snow on the roof to melt and refreeze and create a block of ice that traps water on the roof/in the gutters. This water can leak into the home. Proper insulation, and keeping the gutters clear are keys to preventing damage from ice dams.