Severe winter weather brings moisture, wind, ice, snow, cold temperatures, and rain. It also makes us grateful to have shelter from the elements. But that shelter often takes a beating when Mother Nature rains down her fury. Some common problems that occur during winter are damage to roofs, gutters, siding, decks, pipes, and foundations. Spring and summer are a great time to see what damage may have occurred so here’s a checklist of common damage areas around the home to get you started on your inspection and repairs.
Damage to the roof is a very common weather-related issue and one to be taken seriously since a leak in the roof will eventually bring the entire structure down. Depending on where you live, different weather elements can damage the roof in a variety of ways. For example, the weight of a heavy snow can move shingles around and cause spots to sag. When all that snow melts, the sandy material on the shingles can be washed away, which prematurely deteriorates the shingle. During times of freezing, warming, and refreezing, the snow melts enough to run down the roof and then refreezes under the edge of the shingles, creating an ice dam that lifts the shingle.
Shingles can also be damaged by heavy rains or high winds. This opens the door for leaks and should be fixed each year. If you notice damage during the cold season, a well-secured tarp over the area can tide you over until the weather warms a bit. To fix the issue, make sure you identify each shingle that is damaged and those that are deteriorating. The repairs are not difficult if you can access them. Simply remove the old shingles and attach new ones in their place. To remove shingles you can either cut off the damaged shingle tab with a sharp utility knife or pry off the shingle completely. Tuck the new shingle beneath the shingle above it and make sure it overlaps the shingle below it. Secure it into place with roofing nails, which are easily found at any hardware store. Then secure the lower portion of the shingle to the roof with a few dabs of roof cement.
Not only will ice dams, hail, wind, snow, and heavy water run-off cause damage to your roof, but they also will cause damage to your gutters. Heavy ice and snow can pull the gutters and downspouts away from the house. If the gutter system separates from the home in any way, look into reattaching, using a larger screw if the hole is stripped out. You may need to replace the securing brackets that hold the gutters in place or add additional strips for extra durability.
If the gutter has become too mangled to reattach then you will need to replace the section. The best bet is preventative maintenance. Although you won’t be able to avoid all damage, frequently checking for clogs in the gutters and ensuring that water is running freely down the downspouts can help solve major problems before they occur. While hanging your Christmas lights is a good time to look inside the gutters before winter sets in her harshest form. You may also want to consider removing heavy snow, ice, and ice dams when you see them. Installing gutter guards can also help keep your gutters free from damaging debris.
Like the roof, your siding is the first line of defense in protecting your home. After the snow has melted and you have a chance to inspect the exterior of your home, look for any siding that is split or cracked. Openings in the siding invite moisture into the walls which will cause decay, rot, and mold — all bad things for your home. Replace damaged boards or use caulking to properly seal smaller gaps and cracks. Also take a look at the paint. In addition to helping the house look nice, paint protects the outer materials that in turn protect your home. If you have peeling or bubbling paint, sand it down and apply new paint.
All types of decking will require seasonal inspection, especially wood decks in areas exposed to high moisture. Begin by confirming that railings are securely attached, especially those alongside stairs. Heavy rains and snowmelt can cause the saturated ground to shift, which can affect the foundation of stairs and the deck itself. See if the deck is still structurally sound and level during the dry season so you can address any issues before another winter makes it worse. Also look at the surface of your decking. Hard weather can strip, discolor, and bring moisture that rots boards. Replace boards as necessary and evaluate whether it’s time to paint or stain before the next round of cold weather hits.
There are few things worse than having broken pipes in the middle of winter. Mitigate the potential for problems by inspecting pipes while the weather is mild. Run water through the pipes and check for cracks and leaks, especially those directly exposed to the cold elements under the house. Make sure all attachments are tight. Identify areas that may need additional support, such as long lengths of pipes without brackets. Make sure water runs freely through your pipes as well. Clogged pipes in winter can quickly cause problems in the form of backups as well as freezing and bursting. Every few weeks, stuff some baking soda into bathroom and kitchen drains followed by white vinegar. Let the combination work for a few minutes and flush with very hot water (boiling is best). Use a pipe cleaner if necessary to clear out the gunk. Also consider wrapping pipes with insulation to help avoid freezing in the winter.
While you’re inspecting the home, don’t overlook the foundation. During winter, freezing water can settle in cracks. Since ice expands, it has the power to actually crack your foundation. Seal any cracks during fair weather to keep the problem from getting worse.
During the off-season, also consider how your landscaping may be contributing to winter-related issues. Move shrubs far enough away from the house that they don’t scrape the paint in the wind. Trim back tree branches that might cause damage. Also look at the slope of your land to make sure water is running away from your foundation rather than towards it where it can settle causing rot, flooding, and other issues. With some attention to common winter problem areas, you can help your house protect you for many winter seasons to come.