Protecting your home in extreme cold

Cold spells are normal for our area in January and February, but they can be dangerous for us and cause damage to our homes.
Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 6:56 PM EST
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WATERVILLE, Ohio (WTVG) - We’re not setting records, but the January chill is here. And with temperatures well below freezing, even for extended periods of time, that puts our homes at risk. But we can do something about it.

“Stay aware. Know your house.” That’s the advice from employees at J&R Restoration in Waterville. Steve Kujawski warns the biggest risk to your home in cold weather is frozen water pipes.

“You’re going to need to shut off the water to the whole house so that where’s it’s burst, it stops flowing,” he explains.

So, you have to know where to do that. But you can take some small steps to prevent a big mess.

Dan Scroggins is the Managing Director of Insurance with AAA. He tells 13abc, “You want to leave cabinet doors open so that anything under a vanity, you’ll leave it open so that ambient heat from inside the house can get to the pipes.”

Scroggins says the most vulnerable areas are next to exterior walls. “Those pipes are inside the walls sometimes. So if the wall behind the cabinet is exposed to the outside, even that little bit of air insulation, where the doors are closed, could allow the temperature to drop below where it needs to be to keep the pipes from rupturing.”

You can also insulate your pipes. Otherwise, a burst pipe can lead to other problems long-term.

Kujawski tells 13abc, “Most of your pipes are hidden in walls or in cabinets, so when that bursts, that’s going to damage the cabinet. It could get underneath flooring and could go down into the basement. If it stays undetected, hidden in a wall or something, you always run the risk of mold growth over time.”

Keeping a slow drip from your faucet can help too. Scroggins explains, “Moving water takes a lot longer to freeze than water that is sitting still. So if that water is moving and circulating through the pipes, you’re a lot less likely to have that pipe freeze, causing that rupture.”

And Kujawski says the outside of your home is vulnerable too.

“If you haven’t disconnected your outside garden hoses, disconnect those. Those can always cause a frozen pipe on the other side of the outdoor spigot. If you do notice ice damming up in your gutters or on the eaves by the gutters, then you can take, they make snow rakes, made out of foam. You can scrape that snow and ice off.”

Leaders with the City of Toledo say that cold weather is caused at least 18 water main breaks since the start of the year, including five on Tuesday. And they’re always out checking for frozen fire hydrants.

Scroggins warns that homeowners are seeing big delays, up to a month, for these kinds of repairs thanks to material and labor shortages. “There’s a really high demand for repair work right now. And with most industries, there’s a shortfall in staffing. So, these companies are really short-staffed, supplies are hard to come by because we have supply chain issues right now. So, we’re seeing repairs that used to take a week, taking three or four weeks.” He says that delays like those can have a bigger impact on your family if your home is too damaged to stay in.

You can find other tips to keep your home safe in the cold from the City of Toledo here.

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