Advice to Reduce the Likelihood of a Winter-Weather Loss
Extreme winter weather has been a major issue throughout much of the U.S. in recent years. In fact, PURE members reported more than 700 winter weather claims in 2015, accounting for around $50M in losses—the majority of which were due to ice dams and frozen pipes. For perspective, claims among PURE members resulting from Superstorm Sandy totaled around $30M.
Factors Increasing the Likelihood of a Winter-Weather Loss
Research and analysis conducted by our Claims and Risk Management teams yielded four common factors influencing winter-weather losses and uncovered valuable insights that can help you be more proactive about preventing these risks.
An unoccupied home. Members who were away from home for an extended period of time during a loss experienced more than 4X the amount of damage from burst pipes. For members with multiple homes, PURE saw a substantially higher frequency and amount of damage in secondary homes. The five largest burst pipe claims averaged $1.47 million. In each case, the home was unoccupied.
Recommendation: Install a leak detection and emergency water shut-off system to limit the damage caused to your home while you’re away. These devices (such as Leak Defense System) detect abnormalities in your pipes’ water flow and automatically shut off your water supply in such an event. Smart thermostats like Nest allow you to manage the temperature of your home remotely and alert you of a drastic temperature change. Members who have experienced a covered loss greater than $10,000 have taken advantage of our Loss Prevention Allowance of $2,500 to install these detection devices, reducing the likelihood that a similar loss should reoccur.
The following is an example of the damage caused when water runs undetected:
While a PURE member was away on vacation, their alarm system alerted them to movement within the home. When the police department responded, they saw no signs of a break-in. When a family member inspected the home, however, they discovered a burst pipe. Four burst pipes in the attic had allowed water to run for more than 24 hours and leak onto each floor of the home. The damages resulted in a loss of over $1 million.
Uninsulated pipes in the attic. Burst pipes in the attic accounted for two of our largest winter weather losses in 2015—one of which had more than $2 million in damages. When pipes burst in an attic, water spreads to the floors below. This can damage the entire home if left unattended.
Recommendation: Properly insulate pipes in your attic and other unheated areas of your home to prevent them from freezing. Schedule an inspection to determine if your pipes are at risk. If you plan to build a new home in the future, we recommend installing pipes close to heated areas.
The age of your roof and its materials. Roof age is highly correlated to the development of ice dams; roofs older than ten years see a higher frequency of ice dams than those built more recently. Also, while ice dams can develop on any roof material, members with slate roofs had a significantly higher occurrence of ice dam claims.
Recommendation: Update or service your roof as it ages. Depending on your roof type, the best line of defense is an uncompromised water membrane. The membrane, which is located between the shingles and sheathing, prevents water from leaking through your roof. Schedule a roof inspection before the winter season begins to check for possible weak spots in the water membrane, to replace damaged shingles and to have your gutters cleaned. If you have a slate roof, get it serviced at least once a year to replace cracked or flaking tiles that would allow leaks. If you plan to build a new home in the future, consider installing an ice water shield along the edges of your roof.
Snow accumulation and temperature fluctuation. More than half of PURE's ice dam claims during the winter of 2015 were reported in Massachusetts, likely due to the higher volume of snow and temperature fluctuations that occurred there. Constant fluctuation between freezing and warming temperatures, along with the accumulation of snow on roofs, greatly increases the chances that an ice dam will develop.
Recommendation: After a considerable snowfall, hire a professional to rake the excess snow off your roof and remove ice dams. Consider installing heated cables in your gutters and downspouts to prevent ice dams from forming, and have a contractor inspect the insulation in the attic to avoid heat loss.
The following is an example of the damaging effects of ice dams:
During a period of substantial snowfall and temperature fluctuation, ice dams developed on a PURE member's home. When temperatures warmed, melting snow entered through multiple leaks in the roof and trickled down into the home. Luckily, the roof was able to be restored, but the damage resulted in a loss amounting to nearly $200,000 and estimated to take 7–8 months to repair.
Additional Tips to Reduce the Risk of Winter Weather Loss
Prior to Winter Season
- Winterize your swimming pool and irrigation system. If outdoor systems are connected to a faucet that leads to your indoor piping, the outdoor systems can freeze, causing pressure on indoor pipes which can potentially burst.
- Upgrade your outdoor faucets. Replace your outdoor faucets with frost-free ones. This will prevent the faucet tube from bursting if you leave your hose attached in freezing conditions.
During Winter Season
- Maintain a warm temperature in your home. Leave the heat at a minimum of 65° while you’re away.
- Allow for air circulation. Leave interior doors, cabinets and vanities open to allow heat to reach all areas of the home.
- Be attentive to developing problems. If water flow has stopped or is limited in your home, expect at least one frozen pipe. Call a licensed plumber to inspect your system or contact a PURE Member Advocate® who can help to schedule a visit.
For information to help you protect your home from a winter weather loss, contact a PURE Member Advocate® at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888.813.7873.
Tags: Homeowners | Weather | Water Damage