How to Prevent Water Damage this Winter

While it does seem more like spring here in the Lower Mainland, winter still might throw a few surprises at us. Water damage can cost a homeowner a lot of money. Most of us are aware that standard home insurance policies don’t cover flooding. But depending on your policy, some insurance companies cover water damage caused by leaks or burst pipes not due to maintenance issues. Winter is a great season but we don’t want to have to deal with emergencies involving the gutters, a flooded basement, or a sick roof.

Inspect the Roof

December and January brought some severe and unsettled weather to Metro Vancouver. It might be milder now but if you haven’t checked the roof since the holidays this is a good time. Inspect the roof closely for the extent of the damage. Use binoculars first to see if you can identify any obvious problem areas such as missing shingles, extensive exposed roof decking and large or numerous damp patches that don’t dry up – possible evidence of a leaking roof that might need attention sooner or later. Ensure the roof is free of debris.

Inspect Your Gutters

Even if you had the gutters cleaned late in the fall, the milder weather will allow you to get up close and personal with your gutter system. Check the inside of gutters for clogs; the inside of downspouts for blockages; the outside of gutters and downpipes for cracks, holes, and dents. While small dents in aluminum gutters and downspouts might seen inconsequential, it restricts the flow of water and creates edges where debris can become snagged.

Do a little Patch Work

Wherever there are holes – in the foundation, basement, gutters, siding, or roof – there is a potential for leaks. Damage to exterior walls is an invitation for moisture to collect, resulting in mold growth. Patch cracks and holes with the proper materials and tools – you won’t be using the sealant you applied to repair gutter seams for foundation cracks.

Check Your Basement

Water appearing suddenly in your basement, if it is not caused by overflowing gutters, can be an indication of compromised exterior walls due to deteriorating cement. Check the foundation for cracks or fissures more than a half-inch wide. Examine basement ceilings and walls for damage. Use a basic all-purpose sealant to patch up holes and cracks until you can consult with a contractor about next steps.

Check Pipes for Leaks

Be aware of water draining slowly or toilets not flushing quickly. They are typically signs of some type of blockage in the pipes. Another sign that pipes aren’t working properly is strange noises, often a warning pipes are about to backup or burst. Inspect the areas inside cabinets underneath sinks for signs of mold, a stain on the cabinet’s floor, or streaks down the inside of cabinet walls.

Insulate the Pipes of Your Home

The rough weather conditions the Lower Mainland experienced late last year and earlier this year made us aware of how cold and icy it can get. Regardless of where the pipes are located – in the basement, the attic, or in the main (heated) part of your house, pipes can freeze if the conditions are “right.” Insulate your pipes to avoid expensive water damage. Keeping the temperature at 18.3° C (65° F) when you’re not home or on holidays can help prevent pipes from freezing or bursting.

Have a Back-up Plan

If you don’t have a sump pump, install one. It removes moisture, rainwater, and groundwater that have infiltrated your basement. The sump pump deposits any water away from the foundation. If you do have one, ensure it is working properly.

We like to joke that there is an app for everything. But there really is! See which security and flood alerts will be useful to you. Many home security apps can remotely control appliances, lights, video systems, the thermostat, and more.

Turn off the water if you are going away for a long week-end, a business trip, or out-of-town for an extended period of time.