Winter Water Damage, How To Avoid It, And Restoration Tips

As winter approaches, property owners must take action to protect buildings against water damage. When temperatures drop below freezing, pipes and sprinkler systems are at high risk for bursts and leaks leading to flooding, electrical dangers, mold growth, and structural issues. However, through awareness, prevention, and quick response, we can considerably mitigate the risks and impacts of winter water damage.

What is Winter Water Damage

Winter Water Damage refers to the harm caused by water in its frozen state during the winter season.

During winter, water can freeze in various places, such as pipes and gutters. When water freezes, it expands, leading to potential cracks and bursts in pipes. This expansion and contraction process can result in structural damage to buildings and homes. Additionally, frozen water in gutters may prevent proper drainage, causing ice dams that can lead to roof leaks and other water-related issues. It’s crucial to take preventive measures like insulating pipes and ensuring proper drainage to minimize the risk of winter water damage.

How to Prevent Winter Water Damage

Inspect Equipment and Building Exteriors

  • Check all water supply lines, plumbing pipes, and outdoor equipment.
  • Ensure accessible and functional shut-off valves inside the building.
  • Inspect external faucets, pipes, and valves for cracks, leaks, or missing insulation.
  • Repair gaps, cracks, and deteriorated weather seals in the building exterior to prevent water intrusion.

Insulate Pipes and Valves

  • Use foam pipe insulation for exposed pipes, valves, and fittings in unheated areas.
  • Wrap insulation snugly to prevent heat loss and resist freezing.
  • Replace worn insulation annually to maintain protection against air leaks.

Program Thermostats

  • Service HVAC systems and replace furnace filters before using heat full-time.
  • Set thermostats no lower than 55 degrees F during extended absences.
  • Install programmable thermostats to maintain consistent indoor temperatures.
  • Consider drip pans and auxiliary heat cables for buildings in wet or snowy climates.

Prepare Standby Equipment

  • Keep emergency supplies for water pipe or valve issues, including clamps, hoses, and sealing tape.
  • Have rubber gloves, headlamps, batteries, and a non-contact voltage tester for electrical issues.
  • Use silica gel packs to accelerate drying after leaks and prevent mold growth.
  • Maintain a list of 24/7 emergency plumbers and cleanup services.

Monitor Building and Respond Quickly

  • Increase monitoring during extreme cold snaps and vacations.
  • Watch for snow-covered roofs, ice dams, and drifts against doors.
  • Immediately stop water flow at main shut-off valves upon discovering issues.
  • Contact appropriate services for emergency repairs, leak stabilization, and mitigation.

Protect Landscape Elements

  • Prune dead or damaged branches from trees and shrubs to prevent hazards.
  • Stake thin or vertically vulnerable trees to withstand ice storm weight.
  • Wrap flexible burlap around shrub trunks prone to splitting under snow.
  • Winterize exterior pools, fountains, and irrigation equipment to avoid damage from frozen water expansion.

Monitor Rain Gutters and Drainage Areas

  • Ensure gutters are securely affixed and free of debris.
  • Test downspout outlets for proper drainage and use splash blocks or extensions.
  • Clear blockages promptly to avoid leaks and ice damming.
  • Check patios, walkways, and landscape beds for proper drainage and implement solutions.

Conduct Sprinkler Blow Outs

  • Arrange professional winterization service for pressurized sprinkler systems.
  • Purge all lingering moisture using compressed air or Nitrogen gas.
  • Request technicians to open zone valves and ensure thorough winterization.
  • Avoid attempting to de-pressurize a sprinkler system without professional equipment and knowledge.

How To Deal With Winter Water Damage: Restoration Tips

When winter water damage strikes, swift and effective restoration is essential to mitigate further harm. This section outlines the key steps in the restoration process, focusing on entities integral to the recovery:

  • Assessment of Damage: The first step in winter water damage restoration involves a thorough assessment of the affected entities. This includes evaluating the extent of damage to pipes, plumbing fixtures, walls, ceilings, and any compromised structural components.
  • Water Extraction: Efficient water extraction is paramount to prevent secondary damage. Utilizing specialized equipment, professionals remove excess water from affected areas, targeting entities such as flooring, carpets, and drywall.
  • Drying and Dehumidification: Entities like building materials and furnishings must be thoroughly dried to prevent mold growth. Dehumidifiers play a crucial role in this step, ensuring a complete and effective drying process.
  • Structural Repairs: Restoring compromised entities such as walls, ceilings, and floors is a critical aspect of winter water damage restoration. Professionals address structural damage promptly, ensuring the integrity of these entities.
  • Plumbing System Repairs: Entities within the plumbing system, including pipes and fixtures, undergo thorough repairs. Damaged entities are replaced or repaired to prevent future water damage risks.
  • Mold Remediation: Mold growth is a common consequence of water damage. This entity is addressed through meticulous mold remediation, involving the removal of contaminated materials and the application of preventive measures.
  • Winter-Proofing Recommendations: As part of the restoration process, experts provide recommendations to winter-proof entities vulnerable to future damage. This may include reinforcing insulation, improving roof integrity, and enhancing overall property resilience against winter elements.

In Closing

Diligence in cold weather preparation this winter can help significantly reduce risks of impactful building leaks, floods, utility issues, property damage and corresponding repair bills when ambient temperatures plummet below freezing for months on end. By methodically inspecting structures, insulating pipes properly, installing safeguards like heat tape, monitoring premises regularly and responding promptly to issues discovered immediately, we remain several steps ahead of potential disasters related to water supplies freezing, bursting and infiltrating where it does not belong. While seasonal diligence requires some investment of time, funds and effort up front, the payoffs in minimized winter water damage generally warrant our collective peace of mind all season long. Here’s to a drier winter this year!

Contact Southeast Water Restoration if you’re dealing with winter water damage!