Some of you may be asking what will the Winter of 2018 have in store for us. Severe winter weather ranks third as a cause of insured catastrophic losses, after hurricanes and tornadoes, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Losses from snow, ice and freezing temperatures have averaged about $1.2 billion a year. Winters in Central Pennsylvania can be a rollercoaster ride with single digit temperatures one week and temps in the 50’s the next. These changes in temperatures can take its toll on your home and property. Just like when you bend a paper clip over and over and it breaks, the constant flexing from temperatures will cause the concrete to crack. Understanding the threats of severe cold weather and taking quick action when damage occurs is very important.
Freezing temperatures can cause pipes to freeze, which can lead to broken pipes, water damage, and more. A broken pipe can leave you without water, or if it goes unnoticed, you will have flooding somewhere and possibly be paying for water that is going into the ground. Water expands when it freezes and PVC and copper pipes are no match for the strength of the expanding water. The pipes most at risk are those that aren’t protected along their entire length by the building insulation or insulation on the actual pipe itself.
Pipes also burst when water thaws and begins to flow but then runs into other, still-frozen parts of the pipe and builds up pressure. The damage often goes unnoticed until the weather warms up and the water thaws, causing pipes to burst. Although warm-up’s are a relief to many after dealing with several single-digit days, it can cause plumbing problems.
Here are some warning signs that you may be dealing with a broken pipe:
- If you lost water anytime during the freeze
- If your water pressure is low or erratic
- If water is leaking from the walls or pooling somewhere
- Change in wall color (could be early warning sign of a leak)
- If your pipes are making strange noises
- If you detect an odd odor
- Water discoloration
There are other things you can do to prevent your pipes from freezing. Open cupboards and closets where pipes may be. If there are water lines in the garage, keep the garage doors closed as much as possible. If your area is going to experience a severe cold snap, let cold water drip from the faucet. You can collect it and use it in your humidifiers or other uses. Running water will help keep pipes from freezing.
What do you do if you do have frozen pipes? First keep the faucet open, if you begin thawing out the pipe, the running water will help melt the ice inside. You can thaw the pipes with heating pads, hot towels, or a hair dryer. Do not use blowtorches, open flames, charcoal stoves, or propane heaters. Make sure you check other pipes, if one freezes, others might, also. If a pipe breaks, shut the water source off and then give us a call. We’ll inspect your property and help with any repairs you may need.
Removing Ice Dams
What’s an ice dam? Ice dams occur when ice melts off the roof during the day and then re-freezes as it drips into a clogged gutter. Damage from ice dams can be extensive so it’s important to take action as soon as you become aware of the problem. It doesn’t take a lot of ice accumulation to cause damage and the ice buildup may not be obvious. Ice Dams can force water back under the roofline and cause serious leaks, often thousands of dollars in damage.
Here are some signs to watch for:
- Your home has had previous ice dam occurrences.
- Roof ice or icicles are forming on the edge of the roof or gutter.
- Ice is coming through the soffit.
- Ice is forming behind the gutters.
- Ice or water is on exterior walls.
- Water is coming through a door or window frame.
When the outside air temperature is very low, the temperature at the edge of the roof stays below freezing, causing the water runoff to freeze when it reaches that point. The resulting ice then forms a line, at the edge of the roof. As more snow melts, more water reaches the ice dam, where it also freezes, compounding the original ice dam. This cycle continues and the dam continues to increase in size, until the ice dam gets large enough to cause the melting snow to pool up behind.
As this pool thaws and refreezes, it can force its way back under the roof shingles, causing them to distort, lift, and possibly tear. The ice which forces its way between and under shingles will then begin melting into the property’s attic. Ice dams are insidious in that not only do they damage your roof and attic with ice, but as the ice comes into contact with the warmer attic air, interior ice melts, causing water damage to the attic, insulation, and ceilings below.
You may be tempted to grab an axe, hammer, chisel or other tool. This isn’t a good idea. It’s not safe and it can cause damage to your roof. Applying salt may seem logical; however, it too can damage your roof and kill grass and plants. If you are experiencing leaks through your roof try blowing cool air from a box fan to refreeze the water.
An aluminum roof rake operated safely from the ground can help remove ice and snow. Fill an old pair of panty hose with calcium chloride then toss the pair on the roof with part hanging over the gutter. Gradually the ice will melt allowing ice to flow from the roof. Steam is typically the best solution and should be handled by a professional.
Walls and Foundations
Pipes aren’t the only thing that can be impacted by freezing temperatures. Concrete walls, floors, and foundations can develop cracks when temperatures fluctuate. The concrete expands and contracts with the temperatures and eventually weak spots can develop a crack. When water enters the crack, it can cause even more problems. The strength of expanding water is stronger than the concrete and the crack will increase in size. If you are experiencing cracks in your foundation, the up and down temperatures in winter can quickly increase the amount of damage that can occur.
Regardless of the cause of property damage, Xtreme Home Improvement is here to help. Contact us for a free inspection and we’ll get to work restoring your home’s stability and safety. We can work on your home any time of the year, so don’t let the winter keep you from having a secure home. Keep warm … Spring will be here soon enough.