Avoiding Winter Home Hazards

By Katie Faulkner

With each season, homeowners encounter a myriad of important maintenance routines. This seasonal safeguarding helps to prevent injury and damage to homes. Winter is a particularly threatening time of year for homes, as household hazards are much more prevalent. Read on to find out what some of the most common winter home hazards are, and how to avoid them.

Slippery Sidewalks and Stairs

With freezing temperatures come frozen water in many forms. Slick sidewalks, stairs, and other frozen walkways can be treacherous for your family, yourself, and any visitors. Be vigilant about sweeping and shoveling snow away to avoid buildup, and always pretreat for ice. Salt is a great ice deterrent, while sand and even kitty litter work as abrasive materials to add grip and traction.


Freezing Faucets and Pipes

Remove the hose from exterior faucets and winterize these vulnerable points. Water expands when it freezes, so any water left in your faucets and pipes can cause them to burst. To winterize your exterior faucets, activate the shutoff valve and allow any residual water to run out. For pipes inside your house, never turn your thermostat below 55 degrees in the winter. Consider insulating the pipes that run along exterior walls, as they are at a greater risk of freezing.


Ice Damming

As snow and ice accumulate on your roof, the underlayers can begin to melt and run down the facade. Once that water reaches the colder outside air, it can refreeze and block up all the drainage routes. This leads to water being forced under your shingles and potentially leaking into your house. Keep an eye out for a roof rake if you don’t already have one. It allows you to sweep the snow and ice off your roof from the ground.


Faulty Heating System

Lots of things in and around your house can be damaged by being exposed to the freezing temperatures. But none of them are as important as yourself and your family! Most experts recommend checking your heater before the first cold day of the year. If you need to call in a professional for a service to the system or a repair, better to tackle it before it’s freezing.


Blocked Exhaust Vents

Exhaust vents are essential to releasing toxic gases while heating your home, but they can become clogged by debris or even small animals. Much like checking your heating system before winter sets in, you can walk the exterior of your home to make sure your exhaust vents are working properly and well-covered (enough to keep animals out, but not too tight to let the air out).


Unattended Fires

Candles should never be left burning if you leave the house or fall asleep. Even if you’re only stepping outside for 20 minutes, you’re putting your home at major risk. Wood-burning fireplaces and outdoor firepits should always be doused and completely out before being left. A fire is completely out when there are no flames or red-hot embers.


Chimney Fires

Your chimney is essential in routing toxic gases and smoke out of your home. If your chimney is clogged, not only will those gases build up in your home, but the chimney itself may catch on fire. To avoid these dangers, have your chimney cleaned each winter and watch for signs of a chimney fire, including popping or cracking noises, dense smoke billowing out, or an intense hot smell.


Carbon Monoxide Accumulation

Once all the heating elements are turned on for the season, a carbon monoxide leak could be treacherous. You can schedule a professional to check your vents, chimney, appliances, and furnace, and you should also consider having a carbon monoxide detector installed.


Space Heater Safety

Auxiliary heaters are a great way to save money on your heating bill, but be sure to use them correctly. Set them away from any flammable materials on a level surface, and always turn the heater off when you leave the room.

Winter can be an enjoyably cozy time of year, especially if you follow safety protocol for heating elements and winter weather!

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