With winter comes cold, wet weather and a rising risk of water damage to your home. Though there’s no way to guard against every problem, you can take steps to save yourself—and your possessions—from getting soaked. If your home has a weakness, water will find it. Your job is to fix it first. Here’s how.
Prevent frozen pipes.
Broken and frozen pipes are the No. 2 cause of home insurance claims in the United States. (Hurricanes have the dubious distinction of topping the list.) Guard against these problems by insulating all exposed pipes and setting your thermostat no lower than 55 degrees when you’re away. Also, make sure you know how to turn off your main water line quickly if necessary.
Clean out gutters.
Clogged gutters and downspouts allow water to pool where it shouldn’t, leading to leaky roofs, cracked foundations, and other costly damage. Clean them every fall and spring. If you have a sump pump, make sure it is also clear of debris and in good working order.
Seal up gaps.
A well-insulated home can be up to 15 percent cheaper to heat, according to an Environmental Protection Agency estimate. Weatherstrip doors and windows to prevent drafts, and inspect the walls around fireplaces, dryer vents, and outdoor faucets for troublesome cracks. Check caulking around doors, windows, and cables. Look for cracks in your walls and stains on your ceilings—discolored paint may be a sign that your roof is leaking.
“The older your home's doors and windows are, the more likely they are to be a source of air leaks in a home,” says Matthew Preble, home services team leader for AAA House Manager. “But approximately half of all air leaks occur through floors, ceilings, and outside walls.”
Crawl spaces, basements, and attics are also notorious for air leaks. Preble recommends feeling for cold air around electrical sockets and around the door into an attached, unheated garage.