Winter Weather and the Outside of Your Home
Winter weather can really do a number on your house. Here in the Greater Philadelphia area, it is important to take some time weekly to look around the perimeter of your home to identify any of these problems and try to remedy them as quickly as possible.
What to look for
Ice dams: The parts of your roof over your attic stay slightly warmer than the overhanging edges of your roof (sometimes much warmer, if you do not have very good insulation in your attic). The unmelted snow and ice on the edges of your roof stop the melting snow from the warmer parts of your roof from flowing off and into your gutters. This dam can cause water to seep under your shingles, leading to mold or leaks.
Gutter irregularities: Heavy snow, ice, wind, and fallen leaves can cause gutters to clog or get dislodged, preventing water from flowing through them properly. This can cause a backup that creates a risk of leaking and mold. Unstable, bent, or broken gutters can also cause damage to your siding or even break a window.
Hanging ice: This situation usually occurs when one of the two above events occurs. It may look pretty, but hanging ice can be a real hazard, not only because it can cause icy conditions below when it slowly drips, but the icicles themselves may suddenly break off and hurt someone.
Liquid pooling around the perimeter of the house: In Southeast PA, we tend to have a lot of fluctuating temperatures, which cause melting and freezing. As moisture pools around your foundation, because it doesn’t have time to drain away before it freezes again, you could be looking at some water issues in your basement. A finished basement is susceptible to wet floors and to mold and mildew hiding behind walls. The standing water/ice can also cause cracks in your foundation.
Shrinking caulk: Caulk around your windows and doors can shrink in the freezing weather, allowing cold air and moisture in.
Roof damage: Hopefully you examined your roof in the fall and made sure it was in good repair, but even then, a particularly harsh storm or large falling branch can damage your roof. Check for loose or missing shingles, bald spots, or lots of loose roof debris.
Paint and siding damage: If you have ice dams, damaged gutters, or hanging ice, water may melt and drip slowly down the sides of your house, freeze, melt and freeze, melt and freeze. This will inevitably damage your exterior. Harsh winds, sleet, and tree branches can also crack or scratch your siding or paint.
Driveway and walkway damage: Around here, potholes are an inescapable part of winter. But it’s not just roads that break down from the cold weather; your driveway may also take a beating. Watch for cracks in your driveway surface. And if the ground freezes and thaws frequently, it could heave the stones or concrete slabs in the walkways to your home entrances, creating hazardous fall risks.
What to do
Winter is a tricky time for homeowners to fix things themselves, because it’s more treacherous, and quite frankly, it’s not much fun to work outside in the cold. We’re used to it, and we have the equipment to make repairs safely in this weather, so we do recommend you call an expert.
That said, there are some things you can safely do. While we don’t advocate getting up on a roof yourself, especially in cold, slippery conditions, if you can reach lower gutters or edges of your roof, try to break up any ice dams to get the water properly flowing off your roof. But do this carefully, so that you do not damage the shingles or gutters, making the problem worse.
If you have icicles hanging, creating a wet or slick area below, be sure to spread rock salt or sawdust on any wet or slippery spots to keep people safe until it can be fixed. If necessary, you may want to block off the area to prevent people from walking over it. This is also true if your walkway heaves, creating a tripping hazard.
Quickly patch any shrinking caulk around windows or doors with fresh caulking. It may need to be redone in the spring, but you want to stop heating the great outdoors as soon as possible.
If you notice any of the problems listed above or anything else on your home that doesn’t look quite right, give us a call at M&K Renovations at (610) 353-2895. We have experts who can help you keep your property in good repair.