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News - Preventive maintenance advised to avoid winter weather damage


  • February 01, 2013

With falling temperatures and wintry weather now in the forecast, Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) Insurance Companies wants home- and business-owners to be wary of the potential for damage around their property. Below-freezing temperatures, snow and ice not only cause problems for motorists, but they may also lead to issues around the home and office.

“When snow, ice and freezing temperatures hit, we typically think first of the mess that it will make on the local roadways,” said KFB Insurance Vice President of Claims, Greg Youngblood, “but we can’t forget that our homes and businesses are also subject to changes in weather. We manage a large number of claims each year for homes and businesses damaged by winter storms and freezing temperatures.”

Over the last five years, KFB Insurance has received nearly 29,000 home and business property claims for incidents related to either freezing conditions or damages resulting from the weight of ice, sleet or snow. The overwhelming majority of these claims occurred during the massive ice storm that swept through Kentucky in early 2009. While most claims (85%) during this timeframe were for net losses of $5,000 or less, and the average claim’s net paid loss was approximately $2,600, some totals were for amounts greater than $340,000. As KFB Insurance data reveals, the region’s annual bouts with ice, snow and freezing temperatures – and the occasional unexpected ice storm – can wreak havoc on homes and businesses.

“We advise all Kentuckians to regularly inspect and protect their homes and businesses from the effects of below-freezing temperatures and winter storms,” said Youngblood. “Taking the time to be a little proactive around one’s property can help prevent costly losses and big headaches in the long run.”

Additionally, not all insurance policies cover every type of winter damage. Policy holders should call their local agent to learn more about the kind of coverage their property has for winter perils.

While there are many areas of a home or business that can be monitored and modified to endure winter weather conditions, KFB Insurance recommends that, at a minimum, the following three areas are considered:

Weight of ice, sleet and snow
The overwhelming majority of KFB Insurance’s wintertime homeowner and business-owner claims (approximately 95%) are related to structural damages caused by the weight of ice, sleet and snow on homes and businesses – or things nearby that consequently fall on those homes and businesses for the same reason. To decrease the chances of this occurring when heavy accumulations are forecast, property owners should make sure that trees and their branches are trimmed so they cannot hang too close (or over) a house, business or the electrical wires that connect to either.

Frozen pipes
Another destructive, yet common, cause of damage to a home or business during the winter originates from water pipes that have frozen and burst. Unlike most other wintertime claims, snow and ice are not necessary for a pipe to freeze – just bitter cold temperatures. According to studies conducted by the Building Research Council at the University of Illinois, the true threat of pipe freezing occurs when outside temperatures fall to 20° F or below. Pipes located against outside walls or in crawl spaces or attics are at the highest risk of freezing under those conditions. To prevent water in pipes from freezing:

Keep the cold air out and the warm air in. Locate holes and cracks in exterior walls or foundations near pipes and seal them with caulk.

Wrap insulation around exposed pipes to slow the transfer of heat.

Disconnect all garden hoses from exterior faucets.

Run a small, steady trickle of water through interior faucets that are connected to pipes in unheated areas.

Open cabinet doors below sinks to allow the warmer interior temperatures to circulate around pipes.

Drain the water system if the house or business will be unoccupied during winter weather.

Above all, homeowners and business-owners should know where the water shutoff valve is. In the event that a pipe does freeze and burst, shutting off the water at the source can lessen the total damage.

Ice dams
A lesser-known, but equally destructive, wintertime issue that occasionally appears around the home or business is the phenomenon known as an “ice dam.” When the interior heat from a home or business melts accumulated snow on the roof, water can run down and refreeze at the edge of the roof where it is much cooler. These ice dams often block water from draining properly off the roof, forcing water under the roof covering and into an attic or down the inside of the wall instead. To help reduce the risk of ice dams forming:

Adequately insulate attic floors to minimize the amount of heat that rises up through the attic from the building’s interior.

Keep attics well-ventilated so temperatures are regulated and snow can’t melt as easily and then refreeze in another spot on the roof.

Clear gutters of all leaves and other debris.

While it may not be possible to completely stop the effects of adverse weather conditions on a person’s property, these suggested steps can lessen the blow in many circumstances.

“The value of a property owner’s awareness and preparation for winter weather cannot be overstated,” concluded Youngblood. “It is definitely worth the time and effort to work these things out before a storm than after it hits.”

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