Home DisastersIn the Midwest, winter can stretch on (and on and on). In our Cincinnati tristate area it’s not unusual to have several inches of snow and freezing temperatures well into March. At United Window Cleaning, we know you’re counting the days to spring, and so are we. But, while you’re waiting for those warmer days, don’t forget to protect your home against winter’s ravages.

With a little preventive maintenance and know-how, you can avoid winter home disasters, saving yourself headaches and money. Five of the most common triggers for winter home disasters include:

  • Space heaters
  • Fireplaces (including flues and chimneys)
  • Frozen pipes
  • Frost heave/soil cracking
  • Icicles and ice dams

Space Heaters. According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), space heaters account for 40-percent of home heating fires and 84-percent of all home heating fire deaths (based on a 2009-2013 annual average). While space heaters can serve an important function, it’s critical to follow safety protocols.

  • Always maintain a clutter-free, three-foot radius around the space heater.
  • Turn off the space heater before going to bed, leaving the house, or leaving the room for any length of time.
  • Never allow pets or children to be alone in the room with a space heater or too close to the unit.
  • Never run a space heater that has a frayed or cracked electrical cord.

Fireplaces. The NFPA reports that creosote build-up in chimneys and the failure to properly clean it is the leading factor for home heating fires. Regular fireplace and chimney maintenance is essential to keep your family and home safe. Annually have the fireplace, flue, and chimney inspected and cleaned by a certified chimney sweep.

Frozen Pipes. Images of flooded basements immediately spring to mind when you think of frozen pipes. Fortunately, this is one winter home disaster that usually can be prevented. One of the easiest things to do is insulate the pipes with a protective “pipe sleeve” or install UL-listed heat tape or heat cable, suggests the Red Cross. Other preventive measures include:

  • Keep sink cabinet doors ajar to allow warm air from the room to circulate around the pipes
  • Close garage doors if water pipes are exposed in this space
  • When gone for more than one night, never set your thermostat lower than 55-degrees Fahrenheit

Frost Heave. A combination of freezing and thawing in the soil creates frost heave. This condition has the ability to lift (heave) the soil upward, often causing deep cracks. Frost heave can uproot plants, bushes, and trees. It even has the power to cause structural damage to your home, usually affecting the foundation, crawl space, or basement. When this happens, your home becomes vulnerable to moisture and water damage.

You can reduce the risk of frost heave by keeping your gutters clean and in proper working condition. Clogged or broken gutters won’t shed water away the home’s foundation. The water pools, freezes, and then thaws — the frost heave cycle begins. Having your gutters cleaned and inspected before winter can help reduce risk for frost heave damage.

Icicles. Large icicles hanging from your gutters not only look dangerous, but they can indicate a serious problem — ice dams. An ice dam can form when snow on your roof melts and flows to the edge. This water then refreezes and blocks (or dams) the gutters and downspouts. Water that can’t flow through the gutters can then seep under the shingles causing water damage to the roof, attic, walls, and windows. Making sure your gutters are clean before winter can help; less blockage equals better flow and reduced risk of damage.

At United Window Cleaning, we’re here to answer your questions about preventative maintenance like gutter cleaning that can help reduce your risk of certain winter home disasters. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.