Fierce winds, cold temperatures and heavy snow can mean trouble for your house. Learn how winter weather can negatively affect your home and what you can do to minimize the damage.
Damage to your house
Cold temperatures and piles of snow outside can not only affect your mood – they also have the ability to take a toll on your house. Winter can take your house to its limits, from the pipes in your kitchen to the concrete in your driveway. When the temperature drops below freezing, there are several vulnerable areas of your property that can present potential problems that you must address when spring arrives. Here are 15 ways winter weather can damage your home, and our tips to prevent the damage from happening in the first place.
Snow and ice strain roofs
Condensation and freezing temperatures can cause serious damage to your roof, including ice dams that cause roof leaks, strong winds that loosen shingles, and icicles that put pressure on your roof. To avoid any major blow to your roof, remove any icicles immediately and repair damaged shingles as soon as cold and windy weather allows.
Ice dams pressed against gutters
When snow and ice build up in clogged gutters, causing ice dams, winter can cause major problems for your house. Clear your gutters of debris before the cold weather arrives, then keep an eye on them in freezing temperatures to make sure they stay free of dangerous amounts of ice. If ice dams do form, use de-icer to clean out your gutters or use heated gutter cables (like this one from Amazon) to melt the ice and move the water away from your house.
Cold cracks caulk
Fluctuating winter temperatures cause caulk to pull away from windows, which in turn creates drafts that let warm air out and cold air in. If you find that your house is particularly drafty, check your windows and reapply caulk in any cracks to warm your home and save on energy costs.
Winter supplies damage driveways
You dutifully shovel your driveway every time it snows and apply ice melt to concrete or asphalt surfaces to protect against slips and falls, but these winter chores can cause damage to your driveway. Check your driveway for chips and cracks each spring, and prevent damage each winter by using a rubber shovel and avoiding de-icers containing harsh chemicals that can corrode driveway materials.
Snow and ice break tree branches
Trees provide shade in the summer and beauty in the fall, but winter conditions can put their lives and limbs at risk. When subjected to cold temperatures and severe condensation, tree limbs can break and fall on your roof, siding or power lines. The best way to prevent damage to your trees in the winter is to prune them in the fall, remove their snow in the winter and remove broken limbs in the spring.
Freezing temperatures cause plumbing problems
On the coldest days and nights, your pipes may be at risk of freezing and bursting. To avoid this plumbing disaster when temperatures drop, insulate your exposed pipes with insulation tape (available on Amazon) or foam insulation pipe (available at Home Depot), open cabinet doors under your sink to help warm air circulate around your pipes, and turn your faucets on to a slow drip to keep water flowing.
Humidity rots door frames
Your doors will keep out the worst of the winter weather, but when exposed to cold winds, your door frames can become soft and damp, potentially causing wood rot and attracting termites in the spring. As temperatures rise and spring approaches, inspect each of your door frames and fill the damaged areas with epoxy wood filler (like this one from Amazon). If the damage is extensive, consider replacing the entire door frame.
Shovel the dust off the steps
Just like your driveway, your front steps can show significant damage in the form of cracks, loose bricks, debris and shaky concrete in the freezing temperatures. Use a rubber-bladed shovel to clear the snow from your front steps and avoid harmful de-icers such as rock salt. A safer option is these homemade ice melters.
Melting snow seeping into the basement
While basement flooding can happen at any time of the year, melting ice and snow can push through cracks into your basement and give you a major headache. The best way to prevent this kind of underground flooding from happening is to check your sump pump to make sure it’s working properly and to clear blockages in your drains before a snowstorm.
Changing Temperatures Crack Chimneys
Your chimney’s bricks expand and contract during the daily temperature fluctuations of winter, which can cause them to crack. Water can get behind the mortar and freeze, causing it to fail after the inevitable thaw. Keep a close eye on your chimney throughout the winter and take care of any needed maintenance as soon as warm weather allows.
The Effects of Elements on Decks
Although your deck is built to withstand the elements, your deck is not immune to damage from winter weather. Winter moisture is a breeding ground for mold and mildew, and if pots and debris are not removed before the season begins, moisture infiltration can cause your deck to become discolored. Any snow removal should be done with a stiff broom or plastic shovel to avoid scratching or damaging your deck’s boards. You can protect your deck from winter weather damage by covering it with a tarp or applying a waterproof sealer before the cold weather arrives.
Cold weather freezes sump pumps
Most sump pumps have an extension hose that is used to take water from the sump pump basin and direct it away from the house. This hose can freeze or become clogged with ice and cause water damage to the house. Be sure to properly winterize your sump pump and remove this extension hose when the temperature drops below freezing.
Fluctuating Temperatures Damage Siding
If you have vinyl siding, it will expand and contract significantly when the temperature fluctuates. That’s why it needs to be installed so loosely. Vinyl siding can become brittle in cold temperatures and crack easily. If water seeps in from behind these cracks, it can cause structural damage, which is a much bigger problem. Therefore, pay attention to your siding during the winter months and take care of minor maintenance issues as soon as possible.
Frost Erosion Damages Foundations
In the winter, ice can be the enemy of your home’s foundation. The freeze-thaw cycle (when the ground freezes and then eventually melts again) can cause soil to shift and move under your home’s concrete foundation, causing cracks and other damage. Fixing drainage problems in your yard, repairing cracks in your foundation, and waterproofing your basement are all ways you can work to prevent major foundation problems caused by winter weather.
Dry air makes plaster shrink
Plaster walls are especially prone to problems in the winter. The lack of humidity in the air causes plaster to shrink and crack. You may not be able to prevent it completely, but keeping your home at a consistent temperature and using a humidifier can help reduce the damage winter weather can do to your walls.