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How to protect your home from cold weather disasters in four steps

With winter weather here to stay in the Quad Cities, the risk of home disasters doesn’t hibernate. There are a variety of increased risks that homeowners face in the snowiest and coldest months of the year. 

Help protect your home and family all winter with the following steps. 

1. Keep water supply lines and pipes from freezing.

When water freezes, it expands – which can cause pipes to break and leak. This can lead to significant water damage in your home. Pipes that are most prone to breakage are those that are exposed to outdoor areas – like hoses, swimming pool supply lines, sprinkler lines and pipes in unheated areas (like basements, attics and kitchen cabinets).

Follow these tips to help prevent freezing:

  • Drain water from all exterior lines before winter hits.
  • Remove, drain and store outdoor hoses. Then close indoor valves and keep the outside valve open.
  • Insulate walls or use pipe sleeves in unheated areas. (In many parts of the Quad Cities, MidAmerican Energy offers a rebate program for insulation.)
  • Let cold water drip from faucets served by exposed pipes. Even a trickle of water can prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Leave the heat on in your home (at least 55 degrees), whether you are home or away. (This includes at night.)
2. Prevent ice dams from forming.

When winter weather arrives, gutters can fill with snow that then turns to solid ice. Ice buildup in the gutters can prevent melting snow from flowing, which leads to ice dams. The ice can trap water – eventually backing up into the roof, under the shingles and even into your house. (Learn more about ice dams.) 

Follow these tips to help prevent ice dams:

  • Safely remove snow from your roof when it exceeds six inches.
  • Ensure your roof has ice and water shield installed under shingles. (Local codes require roofs installed after 2005 to use this to protect your home from water seepage.)
  • Increase the level of insulation and ventilation in your attic. This will keep warm air from escaping through the roof.
3. Keep your fireplace in check.

Did you know that nearly half of all destructive fires occur between December and February (National Fire Protection Association)? And some of these fires may be preventable.

One major source of these fires is from fireplaces or wood burning stoves. And the risk is huge – chimney fires can spread to the rest of your home in only a matter of minutes.

Follow these tips to help prevent house fires:

  • Check that the chimney of your fireplace or wood burning stove is clean and not blocked.
  • Keep flammable objects at least five feet away from the fireplace or wood burning stove.
  • Empty ashes into a metal container and keep them away from anything flammable for at least two weeks. Embers can be a fire risk for longer than the fire is actually burning.
  • Always ensure a fire is completely out before you go to bed.
4. Ensure your heaters are up-to-snuff.

When the temperatures dip outside, many of us turn up the heat – literally – inside. But all heat systems – gas furnaces, electric heaters and space heaters – can cause risk if they aren’t maintained properly. 

In fact, space heaters are one of the leading causes of house fires during winter months.

Follow these tips to help prevent house fires:

  • Whether your home is heated by gas or electric heaters, it’s important to have the system checked for safety each winter. (In addition to a risk of fire, some heaters can pose a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.)
  • Don’t leave space heaters where they could be knocked over by pets or people.
  • Space heaters should be at least three feet from anything flammable (like blankets, pillows and curtains).
  • Don’t ever go to bed with a space heater on.
The bottom line

Understanding these winter disaster risks can keep your home and family safe.

Do you have more questions? Connect with our restoration experts.

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