Keep the Cold Out

Dec. 6, 2011 - As the cold weather hits your hometown, you should take a few precautionary steps to help ensure that winter weather stays outside your home.

Freezing rain and snow on roofs can lead to interior water damage. Likewise, freezing pipes can burst and cause extensive water damage to interior contents and finishes. To help protect your home, review these weatherproofing tips.

Eliminate Ice Dams

Ice dams are ridges of ice that form at the edge of a roof or around drains and prevent melting snow and water from draining off your roof. The water that backs up can leak into the building and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation and other areas. To help prevent damage from ice dams, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) recommends the following:

  • Increase insulation above ceilings.
  • Create a preventative maintenance plan that includes periodically inspecting the roof drainage system for proper flow, including drains, scuppers, gutters and downspouts.
  • Install self-regulating heating cables on gutters and downspouts and around roof drains.
  • Keep all drains, scuppers, gutters and downspouts free of debris and vegetation that may restrict proper flow.
  • Prune trees with limbs that may hang over the roof to prevent an accumulation of tree leaves and branches that may clog or slow roof drainage.
  • Improve ventilation. An option for improving roof ventilation is to install electric power vents with thermostats.

If you experience an ice dam, fill a sock or stocking with calcium chloride and place perpendicular to the frozen gutter allowing the sock or stocking to hang over the gutter. This will create a channel in the dam to allow the water to flow off of the roof. Be careful if you attempt to remove the ice by chipping a channel into the dam. Damages to the shingles underneath of the dam may result.

Prevent Freezing Pipes

When the water in a pipe freezes, it can explode and cause significant damage to the interior of your home. Pipes that run along exterior walls and in attics and crawl spaces are the most vulnerable. To keep your pipes free of ice and freezing water, IBHS recommends the following:

  • Place insulation sleeves over exposed pipes to slow heat transfer.
  • Seal cracks and holes in the outside walls and foundations near water pipes with caulking.
  • Keep kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open during cold spells to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes.
  • Drain pipes if your house will be unattended during cold periods.
  • Keep the house heated to a minimum of 65 degrees to prevent pipes from freezing. Some home security systems will alert you if the temperature in your home drops below 55 degrees.
  • Consider providing a reliable back-up power source, such as a stand-by generator, to ensure continuous power.
  • Place recessed light fixtures in the ceiling below the open area directly under a roof, such as attic space, should be insulated to prevent the release of heat into the attic.
  • Ensure proper seals are on doors and windows.
  • Shut off the water to the exterior water bib on the inside, then drain the exterior faucet by opening the valve on the outside.

If your pipes freeze, time is of the essence. Know how to shut off the water. The more quickly you can turn off the water or direct your plumber to the problem, the better chance you have to prevent pipes from bursting.

Check Your Coverage

Standard homeowners policies cover most winter-related causes of loss, such as burst pipes, ice dams, wind damage and losses caused by the weight of ice or snow, as well as fire-related losses. It’s best, though, to review your coverage with your local ERIE Agent to help ensure you have the protection that you need.

For more tips, go to the IBHS Web site,

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