In order to keep clients safe despite inclement winter weather, we're continuing with the list of guidance and advice to reduce property damage in the event of severe winter conditions. Read on for guidance for navigating the extreme temperatures and snowfalls.
Prevent Roof Collapse
Parts of the country have already experienced significant snowfalls this year before the winter season has officially begun. With a long winter ahead, homeowners and business owners should be aware that intense snowfalls and accumulation can put strain on a roof, causing damage, and potentially, a collapse.
Unless the roof structure is damaged or decayed, most residential roofs should be able to support up to 20 pounds of snow per square foot of roof space before becoming stressed. But homeowners should also know how much snow and ice weighs in order to gauge the level of risk.
According to IBHS, the following conditions correspond to the following weights:
- Fresh snow: 10 to 12 inches of new snow is equal to one inch of water, weighing approximately five pounds per square foot of roof space. Therefore, the average home could endure up to four feet of new snow before becoming stressed.
- Packed snow: Three to five inches of old snow is equal to one inch of water, or approximately five pounds per square foot of roof space. Anything more than two feet of old snow could be too much for a roof to handle.
- Total accumulated weight: Two feet of old snow and two feet of new snow could weigh as much as 60 pounds per square foot of roof space, which is beyond the typical snow load capacity for most roofs.
- Ice: One inch of ice equals one foot of snow.
Prevent Ice Dams
While the heat from the home may be comforting as the wind swirls outside, it is important to consider that during freezing weather, the heat from a home or business can escape through the roof and melt the snow that has accumulated there. That snowmelt can trickle down to the roof’s edge and refreeze, creating an ice dam that leaves additional snowmelt with no place to go but under the roof.
While this could lead to disastrous results, IBHS recommends the following tips for reducing the risk of ice dams:
- Keep all drains, scuppers, gutters, and downspouts free of debris and vegetation that may restrict proper flow.
- Remove or relocate heat sources that are installed in open attic areas directly under the roof, such as an attic.
- Insulate light fixtures in the ceiling below an unheated attic space.
- If you have penetrations into the attic, such as vents, seal and insulate them so that daylight cannot be seen and airflow is minimal.
- If ice dams form around the drains, connect heating cables to the drains to prevent ice buildup. Heating cables can also be placed on the roof, connecting them to the drainage system so a path is created for the melting ice to fall.
Prevent Frozen Pipes
Frozen pipes can put homeowners at extreme risk for property damage. A burst pipe can result in more than $5,000 in water damage, according to recent IBHS research.
In order to prevent a costly water damage bill caused by frozen pipes, IBHS recommends that homeowners and business owners provide a reliable back-up power source to ensure continuous power to the building. Furthermore, attic penetrations, wall cracks, and windows should be properly insulated and sealed.
By installing insulation or heat trace tape with a reliable power source on various wet sprinkler system piping, homeowners can further prevent freezing pipes. This also includes main lines coming from the underground, passing through a wall, as well as sprinkler branch lines.
Finally, homeowners should consider placing a monitored automatic excess flow switch on the main incoming domestic water line. This will provide early detection of a broken pipe or valve when the space is unoccupied.
Install Weather Stripping and Seals
Stay warmer and keep your heating bills lower by installing weather stripping and seals to prevent freezing temperatures from infiltrating the home. Doing so will help keep severe winter weather out of the home or business, but will also increase energy efficiency by limiting drafts and reducing the amount of cold air that may enter the building.
Windows and doors, vents and fans, plumbing, air conditioners, electrical and gas lines, and mail chutes are just some of the areas home and business owners should inspect for leaks.
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