Dealing With Water Damage in Winter

water damage in winter

While summer may bring damaging rain, winter’s the season of home water damage related to frigid weather. During one recent winter, 49 of the 50 states experienced freezing temperatures at some point. Home water damage in winter routinely totals over $1 billion nationwide.

Here are two areas where home water damage frequently occurs in winter, as well as strategies to deal with it. 

The Pipes

Sustained temperatures below 25 degrees can initiate ice formation inside pipes that may eventually rupture the pipe. This may release hundreds or thousands of gallons of water into a house. To prevent home water damage due to frozen pipes:

  • Insulate all pipes located outside the heated enclosure of the home, for example, pipes routed through the crawl space and/or attic. Seal the openings in exterior walls that allow frigid outdoor air to infiltrate the structure and contact pipes.
  • If you’re leaving town during possible freezing weather, consider turning off the water supply to the house at the main valve.
  • If you have reason to believe a pipe has frozen, turn off the water at the main valve and call a plumber immediately.

The Roof

Ice and snow can trigger home water damage in two ways:

  • Ice dams forming along the lower edge of the roof prevent melting snow from draining into gutters. Standing water on the roof rapidly penetrates shingles and leaks into the attic. Ice dams are related to heat accumulation in the upper portion of the attic, melting snow at the roof peak more rapidly while the lower roof remains frozen. Prevent ice dams by eliminating heat infiltration into the attic. Verify that attic insulation is intact and meets current specs. Seal the cracks and gaps in ceilings to prevent heat transfer into the attic.
  • Snow accumulation on a roof can be heavy enough to damage the roof structure and trigger leakage. About 10 inches of snow exerts five pounds per square foot on roofing materials. If accumulated snow becomes deep enough, roof leakage due to excess weight may seep into the house and cause indoor water damage.

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