Protect your home after the winter storm
A major snowstorm is sweeping across the country, paralyzing drivers and other travelers with heavy snow and dangerously slick roads. But once you make it home, your problems may not be over.
"When the snow and ice move out, it's crucial that you inspect your home," says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List, the national consumer reviews service. "If you have long icicles hanging from your gutters, that's a warning sign of possible ice dams on your roof."
An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow from draining off the roof.
"Don't ignore the problem," Hicks said. "If you see a buildup of ice, get it checked out. If you don't address the issue, you could cause more damage and you'll have to pay more to fix the problem."
Angie's List offers these 7 DOS and DON'TS for dealing with ice dams:
- Do call a professional: Removing an ice dam can be difficult and dangerous. A good place to start is with a reputable roofing contractor or gutter cleaning company.
- Do remove snow from the roof: If you're tackling the job yourself, there is a special tool for removing snow called a "roof rake." Carefully pull it down the slope of your roof line. Never pull snow across the roof – you might damage the shingles.
- Do chip away at the ice: For immediate action, you can chip away through the ice dam so water can flow through. Stop when you get close to the roofing.
- Do properly ventilate and insulate the attic: The number one cause of ice dams is an overly warm attic.
- Don't walk on a snow-covered roof: Always work from a ladder to access and fix the damage.
- Don't install mechanical equipment or a water heater in attic: They are a fire hazard. It's best to stick to insulation to help keep heat in your home.
- Don't use salt or other chemicals to melt snow off the roof: These materials are very corrosive and the runoff can also damage plants and grass.
You shouldn't just look up after a snowstorm. It's also important to inspect your basement. Melting snow and ice can cause flooding.
"Even a small amount of water can do some costly damage, so it's important to check your basement after each snowfall," Hicks said.
Follow this advice to help keep water out of your basement:
- Remove snow from basement stairwells, window wells and all walls.
- Make sure your downspouts are clear.
- Don't pile snow up against the house.
- If you have a sump pump, clean the pit of any debris and test that the pump is functioning.
Before you do these inspections, you have to make it home. Angie's List also has tips on how to avoid getting ripped off by tow truck drivers when you're stuck in the snow.