Have you ever had the misfortune of cleaning up a smelly, wet and very cold mess on a freezing winter day? I hope you haven't and never do. Thousands of people, however, suffer through this nightmare every year because unprotected water pipes in their homes freeze and break.
A more subtle destructive winter wonder is the phenomenon known as ice damming. Snow on your roof can lead to ice dams that damage the roof, gutters, walls, interior ceiling and even items inside the home.
There are ways you can prevent frozen pipes and ice dams, simple solutions to avoiding the hassles and costs of cleaning and repairing your home.
The value of two minutes
Two minutes. That's about as long as it takes to begin a small trickle of water from your home's hot and cold faucets and to open the doors of cabinets with water pipes running through them.
Two weeks. That could be the length of time needed to find and hire contractors to tear out smelly, water-soaked carpet and wallboard, dry the remaining flooring of your house and replace all that might have been destroyed by flooding from burst, frozen pipes. An eighth-inch (three millimeter) break in a pipe can spew up to 250 gallons (946 liters) of water a day, wrecking floors, furniture and keepsakes.
As you can see, there can be a tremendous advantage to spending a couple of minutes taking simple, no-cost precautions to prevent frozen pipes. The saying, "time well spent," is certainly an under-statement when you consider the soggy consequences of doing nothing. Here are a few additional steps to protect your home or apartment:
* Insulate pipes in your home's crawl spaces and attic,
* Use heat tape to wrap pipes. Use only products approved by an independent testing organization, such as Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., and only for the use intended (interior or exterio). Closely follow the manufacturer's installation and operation instructions,
* Seal leaks that allow cold air inside, near where pipes are located,
* Close air vents leading under the house, and
* Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets.
What are ice dams?
After several days of melting-freezing cycles, it's common for the melted water and ice to work up under the shingles until water enters the attic and eventually does damage to the ceilings, wall and contents.
In cases where the ice dam goes unnoticed for an extended period of time, it can do significant damage to the building and its contents.
There's no way to guarantee an ice dam won't damage your home, but you can take steps to cut the chances of an ice dam forming in the first place, including:
* Thoroughly clean all leaves, sticks and other debris from your home's gutters and down spouts,
* Make every effort to keep snow on your roof to a minimum. Long-handled devices on the market called "roof rakes" let you stand on the ground and pull the snow off the roof. Keeping heavy snow loads off your roof reduces the chances for both ice dam formation and roof failure due to the weight,
* All winter long, keep gutters and down spouts clear of snow and icicles, and
* Evaluate the insulation and ventilation in your attic. Most experts agree the R-value of attic insulation should be at least R-30 (R-38 is preferable in northern climates).