Three Types of Winter Water Damage
Updated: Oct 22
While the potential for water damage is a year-round event, winter water damage often originates from different sources than water damage found during the summer. The common denominator in most winter-specific water damage is frigid temperatures. Though the causes differ, the potential effects of water damage are similar, no matter what the season may be: structural damage, ruined possessions and mold contamination. Here are three examples of winter water damage to be aware of:
Burst pipes. A water supply line rupture due to freezing can release hundreds of gallons of water into your home. Though latent heat in the water typically keeps pipes from freezing when temperature is at 35°F, once temperatures drop below 25°F and remain at that level for hours, exposed pipes may be at risk. All spans of water supply lines exposed to frigid temperatures—such as up in the attic or in the crawl space—should have pipe insulation sleeves installed. Also, seal any openings or gaps in the structure that may allow cold outdoor air to come into contact with internal plumbing.
Roof leakage. Heavy snow melting slowly may trigger roof leakage. The gradual seepage that occurs as snow melts slowly over an extended period of time can infiltrate tiny leaks in the roof structure. Also, the extreme weight of heavy snowfall and/or ice may stress roofing materials and cause leakage, as well. Roof leakage into the attic degrades wooden structure, ruins attic insulation and spawns mold growth.
Ice dams. Water from snow melting off the warmer upper portion of the roof may refreeze as it reaches the frigid lower portion, forming ice dams that obstruct proper drainage. Trapped water pooling on the roof seeps through shingles and sub-roof panels, causing water damage to the attic as well as the ceiling of living spaces below. To avoid ice dams, prevent heat accumulation inside the attic that melts snow unevenly from the upper portion of the roof. Equalize temperatures in the attic by ventilating adequately, seal air leaks that allow household heat to infiltrate the attic and ensure that attic insulation meets Department of Energy recommendations.