Winter Weather and Water Damage

by: Michael Allen

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Winter Weather and Water Damage

It is that time of the year again – Winter.  This season brings cold weather and days when low temperatures lead to freezing rain, sleet, and snow.  Freezing weather brings a different type of mitigation need – the kind where ice is the major culprit.  Ice mitigation occurs more frequently and creates greater damage than is commonly thought. Unless we are talking about falling, many people view ice as somewhat innocuous.  But it is not.  When water freezes, its volume increases by approximately eleven percent (11%).   This expansion exerts tremendous force, force sufficient to break concrete or even steel. As important as the initial damage, this is also an area where until the initial problem is repaired, damage will continue to accrue, and compound damages to property.

Winter water damage occurs most frequently where you would expect – plumbing. Pipes are especially vulnerable to the damage caused by expanding water found as trapped water freezes. The result of the freezing and expansion many times leads to the breaking of that line whether it is metal or plastic. The water lines that freeze first are usually those directly exposed to severe cold, such as outdoor hose bibs and water sprinkler lines. The second most common would be any plumbing located in unheated interior areas of properties such as in the crawl spaces, attics, and garages.  Lastly, would be the areas of the home that have plumbing within the property, but located on the outside walls such as inside kitchen cabinets or bathroom walls and cabinets.  Older homes are especially vulnerable to this type of loss in extreme cold weather because of lack of insulation and older plumbing.

back on the winter of 2015, much of our country, including the Northeastern United States, experienced one of the coldest winters on record. With temperatures hovering in the teens for days at a time and wind chills taking the temperatures below zero, property water lines were continually freezing and breaking, causing extensive water and ice damage. Some of these claims could have been avoided with proper preventative steps such as:

  1. Make sure all outside water hoses are disconnected from the hose bibs and properly stored away for next Spring.
  2. Maintain your home or business’s air temperature at no less than 55 degrees.
  3. If your heating system malfunctions or a winter storm causes power outages and it is not to maintain the indoor temperature as in #2, turn off the main water valve and drain the water out of all fresh water lines. If water lines sag or bow, it may be necessary to call a plumber to make certain all of the water is out of the system, especially if the building will be without heat for a lengthy period of time.  A plumbing professional may even find it necessary to use compressed air to clear the system of water.
  4. If the property has been damaged by wind, inspect the damaged area for exposed pipes and cover them with insulation until the damage can be repaired.

Another common problem property owners can suffer in bitter cold weather is that of “ice dams.”  It is extremely important during the winter months to monitor roofs during freezing rain, sleet, and snow.

When freezing rain, sleet, and/or snow accumulates on a roof, a cycle of melting and freezing occurs. In a perfect world, the snow and ice would melt, flow off the roof into the gutters, and then drain harmlessly to the ground. However, two key factors can interact with this cycle and cause problems:  the outside air temperature and the temperature inside your attic.

Under the right conditions, the interaction of these two temperatures can result in a “perfect storm” of conditions leading to property damage. The warmer the attic, the more melting will occur. Normally, as stated above, this runoff would harmlessly drain to the ground. However, when the outside air temperature is very low, the temperature at the edge of the roof stays below freezing, causing the water runoff to freeze when it reaches that point. The resulting ice then forms a line, or “ice dam,” at the edge of the roof. As more snow melts, more water reaches the ice dam, where it also freezes, compounding the original ice dam.  This cycle continues and the dam continues to increase in size, until the ice dam gets large enough to cause the melting snow to pool up behind.  As this pool thaws and refreezes, it can force its way back under the roof shingles, causing them to distort, lift, and possibly tear.  The ice which forces its way between and under shingles will then begin melting into the property’s attic. Ice dams are insidious in that not only do they damage your roof and attic with ice, but as the ice comes into contact with the warmer attic air, interior ice melts, causing water damage to the attic, insulation, and ceilings below.

Major Restoration Services

In the event a home disaster such as fire, water, or biohazard loss should occur, it is important for property owners to know where to turn.  There are specific actions they can take in order to mitigate the damages to their property and we are there to advise them every step of the way.

Major Restoration Services is a full service mitigation and remediation firm.  We specialize in mitigation and property remediation when a building is damaged by fire, smoke, and the resulting water loss.  Our technicians are IICRC certified.  We know what to do, what not to do, and how to take care of all of your clients’ needs.  We can compassionately guide your customer through this extremely trying time.

Remember, regardless of who your customer chooses to mitigate their disaster, it is extremely important they seek immediate help from a professional licensed firm such as ours.  The quicker a property is stabilized, the less damage they will suffer to their home and personal property, in the long run.


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Happy Holidays!

Many of you know Doug Bowles from attending our Continuing Education courses.  Doug is an expert in all things mitigation.  Please enjoy his advice regarding hoarding and its mitigation.

As always, thanks for all you do.

Michael L. Allen

Holiday Hazards

The Holidays are a wonderful and stressful time of year for many of us! Here is some information on how to make it a little less stressful and keep us all a little more prepared!

There are many different disasters that could hinder your family fun at this jolly time. However, Major Restoration Services is here to teach you some tips on how to prevent anything from happening in your hectic schedule this season.

House Fires

The most common holiday hindrances we experience are house fires. It is easy to get wrapped up in other tasks while preparing a nice holiday dinner maybe leaving those lights on a little too long because they make your home look cozy and sparkly, but watch out! We don’t want the beautiful masterpiece you created to go up in flames! Nearly 47,000 fires happen over the winter holidays. The American Red Cross gives us some great tips on how to prevent these things from happening. Make sure you place Christmas trees, candles, and other holiday decorations at least three feet away from heat sources like fireplaces, portable heaters, radiators, heat vents, and candles. If you do have a Christmas tree be sure to purchase flame retardant metallic or artificial trees. If you do purchase a real tree make sure that it has fresh, green needles that aren’t easily broken. Keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water. Make sure that light strings and other holiday decorations are in good condition. Do not use anything with frayed electrical cords and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Always unplug tree and holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed. Also blow out any candles you might have lit! Use only sturdy tree stands designed not to tip over. Train your pets and children to stay away from your decorations that could be tipped over like trees or Menorahs. An average of 40 home fires per day, over the holidays, are caused by children and pets playing near decorations! Keep anything that can catch fire – pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels, or curtains – away from your stove top while making all that wonderful food! Designate one person to walk around your home/yard to make sure all candles and smoking materials have been properly extinguished after your guests leave. Make sure you test all smoke alarms before the big parties! Smoke alarms save lives! [1]

Winter Weather

The weather plays a huge factor in our winter/holiday fun. Living in the Northeast like we do our winters tend to be a little unpredictable to and a little crazy. Luckily the CDC has some great tips on how to protect yourself and your loved ones during this blustery time of year! Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector. You never know when your power might go out and with all of us being indoors so much over the cold months carbon monoxide poisoning peaks. Make sure to water proof your home! This includes fixing any leaks in the ceiling and making sure your pipes are well insulated. Nothing is worse than having a frozen pipe burst right as your cutting into holiday dinner! Check your emergency supplies. You should have:

  • Clean water
  • Flashlights
  • Candles
  • Blankets
  • Portable cell phone charger
  • Radio
  • Extra Batteries
  • Even having a small generator wouldn’t hurt!

Don’t forget to bring your pets inside! They are part of the family also! Watch out for snow. Make sure you are keeping an eye out on the snow that accumulates over the winter season. Not just on sidewalks but on your rooftops also! If it gets too heavy it could collapse! Trim all the trees with branches that hang over your house. They get heavy and frozen over the winter. You never know when one might snap off and cause roof or chimney damage. [2]

Preparing you for the Holidays

It is important to not only protect your home but to also protect yourself during the holiday season. Don’t take on too many tasks at once and stress yourself out! You want to be calm and coherent so you can keep everything in your home safe and you can stay in control. See if you can take some short cuts or find some easy new recipes for you and your loved ones to try together.

If you or anyone you know is struggling make sure you give them the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number. Just showing that you care could make a difference. They are there 24/7 to take calls and save lives 1 (800) 273-8255. Have a safe and happy holiday season!

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