Winter Water Damage

During the winter months, your building is susceptible to water damage due to the colder temperatures. Once the temperature drops below freezing, the pipes of your building could become frozen and possibly burst. Additionally, the formation of ice dams on the roof can cause damage to walls, ceiling, and insulation. Taking the proper precautions can help safeguard your organization against frozen pipes and ice dams.

Frozen Pipes

These preventive measures can help avoid frozen pipes:

  • Wrap any water pipes that are exposed to freezing temperatures and cold drafts, and those located in unheated or non-insulated areas, with pipe insulation.
  • During cold temperatures, leave open the doors of cabinets where water pipes and drains are present to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes.
  • During extremely cold weather, turn faucets to a slow drip to reduce the chance of the pipe freezing.
  • Consider installing an automatic detection system that can monitor the temperature of a specific pipe. If the temperature of the pipe drops below a pre-set temperature, the unit will automatically shut off the main water valve. This will not prevent the pipe from freezing, but it will protect the pipes from bursting. To determine the best system to install for your building, contact a qualified plumber.
  • Set the thermostat to 50 degrees or above when the building will be unoccupied for a prolonged period of time during cold weather. If possible, ask someone to check the building daily to see that the heating system is working properly.
  • Insulate the outside walls and unheated areas of the building.
  • Heat the basement, and consider weather-sealing the windows.
  • Close windows near water pipes and cover open-air vents. Freezing temperatures and wind drafts are a combination that can cause pipes to freeze more frequently.
  • Disconnect any garden hoses, and install covers on the outside faucets.

If a pipe freezes, contact a licensed plumbing contractor as soon as possible. If a pipe bursts, shut off the water at the building’s main water valve, if possible, then contact a licensed plumbing contractor as soon as possible. A licensed plumbing contractor should be listed in your emergency contact information.

Ice Dams

Ice dams can be prevented by taking the following safety measures:

  • Make sure the attic has adequate insulation and ventilation. Rust spots, rusty nails, or the odor of mildew could be an indication of insufficient ventilation.
  • Consider installing soffit vents to increase ventilation.
  • Seal openings in the attic, such as heat ducts, light fixtures or vent pipes.
  • Keep the gutters, eaves and downspouts clean.
  • Clear snow two to three feet from the roof edges with a snow rake to allow melting snow to drain and not be trapped under snow and ice.

Cold temperatures and the weather that comes along with it are unavoidable. It is important to follow the recommended tips above to prevent damage caused by frozen pipes and ice dams. In doing so, you may not only be saving money, but your organization will be able to carry on without any disruptions.

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Brian Gleason

Brian Gleason

Senior Risk Manager

Brian Gleason is a Senior Risk Manager at GuideOne Insurance, providing resources and consulting services to GuideOne clients. His goal is to keep his clients valuable resources focused on their mission.

© 2018 The GuideOne Center for Risk Management, LLC. All rights reserved. This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.