What are Some Major Causes of Winter Water Damage?

winter water damage

Many issues can cause water damage in the winter, many of which are avoidable with some pre-winter preparation. While the idea of preparing our homes for winter can be overwhelming, dealing with the aftermath of water damage can be expensive and devastating especially, in the wintertime. In the next few paragraphs, we will go over some of the root causes and ways to prevent water damage before it happens.

Let us start with several issues that can lead to water damage in the winter if not addressed before the cold temperatures set in.

Faulty Roofing:

Faulty roofing can include anything from lifted, cracked, or damaged roofing materials, bad gaskets, or seals around roofing penetrations, and so on. These issues can allow water to get under the shingles and through the roof penetrations flowing into the home resulting in water damage. To ensure that your roof is in tip-top shape, we recommend that you inspect your roof and roof penetrations annually during the warmer milder months. To access more information on what you should be watching for, check out what the experts recommend.

Clogged Gutters:

Clogged gutters can prevent water from properly draining from your roof, causing water to back up and get under your shingles and into the attic, flowing down into the living spaces through ceilings, walls, and flooring. These issues can be easily avoided by cleaning your gutters twice a year. Once in the spring and again in the fall to remove dirt and debris.

Maintaining your gutters will allow the water to drain freely from the roof. For more information on how to safely clean your gutters, please see what the professionals at This Old House have to say.

Frozen/ Blocked Perimeter Drains:

Perimeter drains are perforated pipes that are located underground around the perimeter of the foundation in homes. These drains carry excess groundwater away from the foundation of a home. When these drains freeze or become blocked with roots and debris, water has no escape other than through the foundation. When this happens in the winter, it can be dangerous because heating systems dwell on the basement floor and can become damaged if the water gets to them.

One way to know if the perimeter drain is clogged or frozen is to check the foundation from inside the basement for water staining on the walls and around the home’s exterior, looking for puddles near the foundation. If you see staining or puddling in these areas and suspect that your perimeter drain is clogged, we recommend calling in a drainage specialist to inspect and make repairs to the drainage system before winter. If you have puddling from snow melting against the foundation, we recommend digging a trench to direct the water away from the foundation to prevent the water from backing up into the basement.

Lack of insulation:

Not having enough insulation in the home can cause heat loss, ice dams, and frozen pipes. To ensure that your insulation is adequate in keeping the drafts out, limiting heat loss, and preventing your pipes from freezing is to find out how much insulation you have and what you would do to remedy the situation.

Please see the advice from Energy.gov to learn more about how insulation works and how much insulation is recommended based on your geographical location, or you can call in a weatherization specialist to assess your home for insulation deficiencies.

Heating system failures:

Heating system failures can cause significant water damages in the winter if not repaired as soon as possible because pipes will begin to freeze within hours at temperatures below 20 degrees. Once the pipes freeze, they build pressure and cause swelling and splitting, causing flooding in your home. To help avoid your heating system from failing, we recommend that you have your heating system serviced annually.

Fuel Runouts:

Running out of the fuel needed to keep your heating system running in the winter is a common and costly mistake that can easily be avoided by monitoring the gages on your fuel tanks weekly and before any weather event. If you do not have the time or ability to check your gauges regularly, you can seek advice from your fuel supplier for ways to prevent running out of fuel.

If you are worried that you may experience water damage in the winter, we recommend that you be proactive and prepare your home before the snow begins to fly to ensure that you don’t find yourself left in the cold.