“Home safety is not a topic to take lightly when facing severe weather,” Lipford says. “We count on our homes to protect us from the elements, but they aren’t foolproof. Knowing what to watch out for is key to protecting your family and staying safe.” Lipford offers five areas that homeowners need to assess during and after severe winter weather:
Heavy snowfall, rain and high winds can all affect the integrity of a home’s roof. Following heavy snow, Lipford says homeowners should pay special attention to popping and creaking sounds, new, visible cracks appearing on walls, a sudden change in door or window operation, and visible signs of splintered roof framing in the attic as these are signs that the roof could be under stress. He advises contacting a professional structural engineer immediately to evaluate the situation.
Lipford suggests homeowners begin the snow removal process soon as weather permits to remove added weight from the roof. He points out there are several options for snow rakes that are lightweight and allow users to move a large portion of snow without climbing onto the roof itself or a potentially dangerous ladder. Lipford also points out homeowners should avoid walking on the roof as it adds additional weight and presents an opportunity for falls.
Following heavy snowfall, Lipford cautions homeowners to be on the lookout for water spots on the ceiling, or damp spots along the wall of a home – this will often point to a leak in the roof. He advises homeowners to track down the source of the leak in the attic. “In this kind of situation, you’ll often find that a shingle or two have been damaged and that’s a simple DIY fix,” Lipford says. “However, if you find sections of missing or damaged roofing material, that’s when you need to call a professional.”
2. Generator Safety
While generators can provide comfort and necessities during a power outage, Lipford warns about the importance of operating them safely. Since portable generators use fuel, they emit carbon monoxide and should never be operated inside the home or any enclosed space. Lipford says homeowner should place portable generators under an outdoor overhang area or create a temporary “lean-to” structure to protect it from direct contact with rain or snow and at the same time allow for proper ventilation. He also recommends having a carbon monoxide detector on hand to monitor levels indoors.
When a winter storm causes flooding conditions as Jonas did for many northeastern coastal states, Lipford advises homeowners to assess their electrical system once the waters subside. If any switches or outlets were submerged during flooding, they need to be checked for safety by a master electrician before use. Removing wet items from the home, and starting the “drying out” process is next best step. According to Lipford, homeowners need to reduce the relative humidity level in the home to under 50%. This can be done using portable fans around the home, running ceiling fans and using dehumidifiers. Homeowners should wipe down all walls and surfaces with an antimicrobial solution to ward off mold and mildew, which, if unchecked, can lead to health problems.
4. Steps and Walkways
Slippery surfaces are one of the most common safety hazards resulting from severe winter weather. Lipford recommends pretreating steps and walkways with a deicer before snow and ice arrive, or adding it on top of the snow or ice after weather subsides to begin the melting process. He cautions homeowners to use products that are safe for nearby plantings and soil. For removing snow from walkways, Lipford suggests using one of the newer snow shovels with user-friendly features and ergonomic design.
For additional traction on walkways and steps, Lipford suggests adding kitty litter or sand to the slick surface. Homeowners can add non-skid adhesive strips to stairs and secure handrails to add another layer of protection.
“The biggest regret I hear from homeowners when dealing with the aftermath of severe winter weather is that they didn’t take the time to insulate and protect their pipes,” says Lipford. “Frozen pipes, or worse yet – pipes that have burst – are a pain to deal with, and can lead to expensive repairs. It is well worth the small investment of time and money to wrap your pipes and have peace of mind when freezing temperatures hit.” Lipford recommends wrapping both hot and cold water pipes in the crawlspace under homes well as in the basement, attic, and exterior walls if accessible. Snap-on foam insulation, heat tape and even old recycled pool noodles work well. In addition, setting faucets to drip during freezing temperatures will keep water moving and relieve excess pressure should pipes freeze.
Before attempting to thaw frozen pipes, Lipford says homeowners should turn off the main water valve. Open faucets to allow water to flow and relieve pressure as pipes thaw. Homeowners can use a hair dryer, heat lamp, electric heat tape, or portable space heater to begin thawing, and should begin at the interior end of the pipe and work toward the colder end.
About Danny Lipford
Danny Lipford is a 37-year veteran remodeling contractor and media personality known to audiences as Host of the Emmy-nominated and nationally-syndicated home improvement TV show and nationally-syndicated radio show “Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford.” Lipford served as the home improvement expert for CBS’s “The Early Show” and The Weather Channel for over a decade and has made more than 160 national television appearances. Lipford has been a longtime contributor to Better Homes and Gardens magazine and BHG.com and continues to serve as a source for hundreds of other popular magazines and news outlets each year. Visit TodaysHomeowner.com and AboutDannyLipford.com to learn more.
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