10 Ways to Prepare Your Home for a Snowstorm — Best Life

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If you live in an area that’s prone to winter storms (or if you’re even going to get a freak snowstorm this year), you probably know the basics — buy a snow shovel, stock up on non-perishable food and water just in case, and one power outage, have enough blankets and clothing for cold weather. But even if you’re warm and well-fed, snow can wreak havoc on your home, from structural issues to plumbing to safety hazards. To make sure your home is ready for the next inclement weather, we consulted home improvement and utility experts. Read on for her top 10 tips on how to prepare your home for a snowstorm.

READ NEXT: 10 Mistakes You’re Making That’s Keeping Your House Cold, Experts Say.

ND700 / Shutterstock

After Glen WisemanSales Manager at Top Hat Home Comfort Services, the first step in preparing for a snowstorm is making sure your home’s roof can withstand the elements.

“Some common warning signs to look out for that your roof may need attention are water stains in the attics, curling or broken shingles, caulking being pulled from the brick or wood, and grit from the shingles going in be found at their eaves,” says Wiseman.

Leaks can cause a variety of problems, so you should call in a professional if you see any of these warning signs.

Man scrapes snow from the roofone

Ideally, the snow on your roof will melt and then run down the gutters to the ground. However, as emergency real estate service company PuroClean explains to Best Life, when the outside temperature is very cold but the attic is warm, “the edge of your roof and the gutters stay below freezing, and when the melted snow finds its way to the gutters, it freezes.” As a result an ice dam is formed.

A well-insulated attic will help prevent this, as will lowering the temperature upstairs in your home before a snowstorm.

Of course sometimes freezing on the roof is out of your control. In these cases Joe Palumbo, president of the Minneapolis-based Ice Dam Guys, suggests having a roof rake or broom. You can’t remove an ice dam, but you can help prevent it.

“Both, together or individually, are great tools for removing snow from your roof’s north-facing slopes and gutters where snow and ice accumulate. Even if you don’t have ice dams, use one as it removes snow from your roof quickly and allows for proper drainage.”

READ NEXT: 10 mistakes you’re making that wreak havoc on your home in winter, experts say.

fallen trees in the snowone

A common hazard during snowstorms is fallen trees or broken branches that can fall on your home. This can be caused by high winds or by limbs that cannot support the additional weight of snow and ice.

“You should look at your trees and their larger branches. If one looks dead, damaged, sick, or otherwise impaired, arrange for an arborist to remove it,” he advises Lisa Tadewaldt, ISA-certified arborist and owner of Urban Forest Pro. “If a tree is leaning towards an object, monitor it and contact an arborist as there is a chance the roots have weakened or are failing. If you know you have a hollowed tree due to internal rot, that is also a reason for the fall.”

Icicles on a pipeShutterstock / Nazarova Maria

Freezing temperatures, which can be made worse by a power outage caused by a snowstorm, can cause pipes to freeze and burst. Luckily, there are some easy ways to prevent this from happening.

“Make sure your pipes are properly insulated. You can use pipe sleeves or wrap your pipes in electrical tape to keep them warm.” Matt HagensCarpenter and Founder of Obsessed Woodworking, opposite Best Life.

Another pro tip is to “open closet doors where there is plumbing, especially if plumbing is next to an outside wall” so they receive heat Ian Giammancosenior research meteorologist at the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Security (IBHS).

You should also “leave the faucets on in different parts of your home to avoid freezing,” he says Josh Wardenformer FEMA Administrator and current General Manager of Medical and Security Assistance at International SOS.

If all else fails, turn off the water to keep it from freezing in the pipes. “Before the cold snap, identify the location of the main water shutoff valve and whether any special tools (like pliers or sewer locks) are required to close it,” advises Giammanco.

If you turn off the water, be careful when opening the valve again. “Once it’s running again, slowly turn the water on before attempting to open the faucets all the way,” says Dozor.

leaking hose connectorShutterstock / stephenkirsh

The same installation principles apply to pipes outside the home.

“Make sure the outer hose fittings are insulated and capped. If possible, drain the water lines that feed them,” says Giammanco. “Winterize outdoor sprinkler systems by shutting off the water supply and draining the lines.”

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White home in snowy weatheriStock/Willowpix

Even if items are suitable for outdoor use, they may not be able to withstand the high winds and attendant risks of a snowstorm. “Save loose items like decorations, children’s toys, outdoor furniture, and any materials or items that can’t take the weight of snow,” advises Giammanco.

“Make sure you disconnect any outdoor items like hoses, air conditioners, or lawn equipment to avoid damage from snow or ice,” he adds Andre KasimierskiCEO of Improovy Painters Chicago.

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If you have a chimney, this is another part of your home that you should maintain in the event of a snowstorm.

“A brick chimney can crack and absorb water if it’s exposed to rainfall for a long time,” explains Wiseman. “Have your masonry checked for damage by a professional once a year.”

If you find chimney parts like damper screens, spark arrestors, and rain caps that are missing or damaged, have them replaced, he says. “Make sure the cap is on and the shock is closed,” adds Wiseman.

couple and dog sit at the radiator and try to stay warmBudimir Jevtic/Shutterstock

Power outages often occur during snowstorms. To prepare for the potential heat loss, try to trap as much inside as possible.

“Close blinds and drapes, and stuff towels and rags under doors to keep cold air from getting in,” advises Dozor. “When entering/exiting a room, make sure the door stays closed to conserve heat.” He also suggests that household members stay in the same room to maximize body heat.

Ahead of the winter season, Giammanco recommends ensuring all window and door frames are sealed with caulk. “If condensation freezes on the inside, that’s an indication that they’re not sealed well on the outside,” he explains.

If you’re using a space heater, plug it directly into an outlet, says Christopher Haas, owner of Haas & Sons Electric. “They typically require or use a lot of energy, which means high electrical current. If the current is run through a poorly fitted extension cord or power strip, it can melt or even cause a fire.”

If you must use a power strip, make sure it is of high quality and never leave the space heater unattended.

READ NEXT: 7 mistakes you’re making that are increasing your heating bill, experts say.

portable generator in the snowRadovan1 / Shutterstock

The above tips will only keep you warm for so long. During extreme winter storms, power can go out for days or even weeks. Because of this, you should have an alternate source of heat, most of which will need to be powered by a backup generator.

Mark DawsonOne Hour Heating & Air Conditioning President and CEO Mister Sparky and Benjamin Franklin Plumbing share some important safety tips about using a generator:

  • Operate your generator outdoors to prevent its powerful fumes from circulating around your home.
  • Use caution when operating a generator and keep children and pets away from them to avoid potential hazards.
  • Provide 1.50m clearance on all sides of your generator to avoid fire hazards.
  • Remember to change the oil and perform routine maintenance when your generator is not in use.

Of course you can also use a generator to power lamps, chargers and electric cooking appliances.

carbon monoxide detectorShutterstock

It’s good advice in any case, but especially before a snowstorm: either install a carbon monoxide detector or make sure your existing one has working backup batteries in case of a power outage.

“The reason these are so important is because we usually turn up the heat during big storms. Whether it’s a stove, a wood-burning stove, or a generator, they can all produce unhealthy exhaust fumes for you and your family,” Haas warns. “This may be due to product failure or simply the large amounts of snow minimizing airflow from the exterior vents. These detectors are the first line of defense if your chimney is clogged, your generator fumes are leaking in from the porch, or your old stove has a leak.”

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