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Rutt Insurance Agency Blog: winter

View the latest blog posts from Rutt Insurance Agency.

Day 1
Frozen pipes happen when the temperature dips low enough that the water within the pipe begins to freeze. When water freezes, it expands, and if the water within the pipe freezes long enough and continues to expands it will burst the pipe. Once the temperature moves above freezing and the ice in the pipe starts to melt, you are left with a hole in your pipe and leaking water. The easiest way to spot frozen pipes is actually pretty simple. When a pipe has frozen, water can’t really flow. So, when a faucet isn’t working at all, or can’t deliver more than a trickle of water, a frozen pipe is a very possible cause. Look for more information about how to fix frozen pipes later on in the 12 Days Winter Warnings.

Day 2
Yesterday was all about determining when pipes are frozen. Today we’ll be talking about ways to prevent frozen pipes in the first place. The process is pretty simple: since pipes freeze when they’re exposed to low temperatures, keeping them warm keeps them safe. Wrapping pipes with pipe insulation is a good start. This insulation can be purchased fairly easily, and is simple to cut to size and wrap around the exposed pipe. Heat tape is another good option. Since this tape generates its own heat, it is especially good for any pipes that are prone to freezing. Finally, it’s important to keep the heat on in any rooms with pipes running through them throughout the winter. It’s amazing what a difference household heat can make!

Day 3
Today, we’ll be finishing up our information about frozen pipes with an easy way to help prevent freezing without any advance preparation. When temperatures plunge, a freeze can be prevented by leaving the taps open at a trickle. For maximum freeze-stopping power, let the tap run enough to get the water flowing through the pipes, but it doesn’t need to be full blast. When water is moving, it’s a lot less likely to freeze – protecting otherwise at-risk pipes during cold snaps, or when there hasn’t been time to insulate. Outside faucets is another key area of concern. Preventing freezing and avoiding leaks is always the goal. You will want to disconnect the garden hose from the outside faucet and use the shut-off valve inside the home to shut off the water source to the outside faucet. Once the water is turned off outside the home, you will want to open the outside faucet to allow any excess water to drain from the sillcock. 

Day 4
Today we're switching gears from frozen pipes to ice dams, starting with how to spot one that's formed or forming. Ice dams come to exist for slightly more complicated reasons than frozen pipes: warmer outdoor temperatures cause snow on a roof to melt into water, but colder temperatures on the eaves cause the water at the edges to freeze. Water flowing down from above is blocked, and it forms a small pool behind the frozen ice dam on the eaves, leaking in through the shingles on the roof. Spotting ice dams is not too tricky. Look for any visible ice along the edges of the roof - it is not necessary to go up on the roof to spot them, and we don't recommend it in winter weather. Be especially careful to check on any surprise warmer days when conditions are ripe for snow above to melt, but the eaves to freeze. Ice and icicles along the eaves with snow above is a telltale sign of an ice dam. 

Day 5
Yesterday we talked about spotting ice dams; today we'll talk about clearing them. Always be careful when clearing one; getting to them can be tricky, and the areas around them can be very slick. Don't hesitate to call in professionals if needed!


Here are three tactics that can help with ice dams: 

  • Blow in cold air. If the leak is clearly ice dam related, get into the attic and place a box fan under the leaking area. This can help cool the area down, re-freezing the water and stopping the leak.
  • Use a roof rake (carefully!) A long handled roof rake, used from the ground while standing safely out of the way of any falling snow, can pull snow off the roof and remove the hazard.
  • Targeted ice melting. Another option is to deliver a targeted dose of ice melt right at the location of the ice dam (and the leak). Fill a semi-porous material (pantyhose work nicely) with ice melt (not salt) and place it perpendicular to the ice dam, crossing over it and overhanging the gutter. This ice melt will eventually melt the ice, giving the trapped water a way to run off.

Day 6
Today we’re going to switch gears and talk about how to protect a property during a long trip. Many folks are going away for the holidays, and it’s crucial to have a property checked regularly when property owners are away. But just having someone walk through isn’t ideal – here are some tips to make that check-in really count.
  • Have mail/newspapers collected daily - have a person, neighbor, friend, or family member do this daily.
  • Arrange daily checks for leaks or other maintenance issues. Spotting any issues early – and within a certain window of time from their start – will be a great help.
  • Ensure that the check-ins are documented. The best way to do that is to use a cellphone camera to take photos or videos of the property. It’s important to document visits even if everything looks normal. If something breaks tomorrow, it can be vital to show it wasn’t broken today.
Day 7
Today we’re going to keep talking about protecting a property during a long trip. This time, we’ll cover steps that should be taken a week or so before departure, and then immediately prior to leaving.

A week or so before leaving:

  • Connect a few lights to a timer and set them to go on every day after dark. This will keep the property from being totally dark – a sure giveaway that no one is home.
  • Don’t close blinds and shutters or install new perimeter lighting. Changes like these make it obvious that a property will soon be unattended, which can make it a target.

Right before leaving:

  • Turn the heat down to no lower than 55 degrees. Don’t turn it completely off during the winter; as the temperature drops, the risk of frozen pipes goes up dramatically.
  • Lock the house. That includes pet doors, garage doors, and windows that might normally be left open.
  • Throw away any perishables if the trip is planned to last more than 3 days or so. It’s no fun to come back to a rotting mess in the fridge!
Day 8
Today is all about snow safety. When we think of winter hazards... frozen pipes and ice dams might be the first things that come to mind, but heavy snow can cause problems too. Here’s what to do when heavy snow hits
    • When the storm arrives, stay put if possible. The best way to keep safe in a big snowstorm is to avoid exposure to the hazards entirely. Stay with supplies, sheltered inside a building, unless you find it absolutely necessary to go out.
    • If planning to remove snow from the roof, be safe. Removing the weight of heavy snow from the roof can help prevent a possible roof collapse, but only if care is taken to remove that snow in a safe manner. Never step out onto a roof covered in snow; instead, use a snow removal roof rake.
    • Heat the home safely. Read and understand all instructions for heaters and other sources of warmth. Make sure that no heat source is ever too close to anything flammable. Never leave a fireplace or other open flame burning unattended.
Day 9
Candles are often a beautiful part of holiday decorating, but if they’re not used with some care, they can quickly turn into a hazard. These tips will help ensure candle safety throughout the holiday season:

Consider battery operated candles. Nowadays they look great, come in all different shapes and sizes, are very realistic, and are much safer than an open flame.
Place candles on sturdy, flame resistant bases. Metal, glass, and ceramic holders are all good choices. The bases should be wide, sturdy and difficult to knock over.
Never leave candles unattended or burning overnight. When leaving a room, or turning in for the night, blow out the candles.
Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn. Drapes, bed sheets, furniture, even certain types of wood become fire hazards when near a candle. Give the flame at least 12 inches of space.
Don’t put candles in the window. Electric candles that look great in the window have been around for years. They never have to be re-lit, and they’re a whole lot safer.

Day 10
Yesterday we talked about candles – today we’ll talk about the safest ways to enjoy their bigger cousin, the fireplace.
  • Have the fireplace and chimney cleaned and inspected once a year. This step is important whether the fireplace sees regular use, or burns just once a year.
  • Keep the area around the fireplace clean. This area needs to be free of debris, especially anything flammable. The walls and floors around the fireplace should made of (or covered with) a fire-resistant material like stone or metal.
  • Keep the mesh screen closed at all times. The mesh screen helps keep embers from escaping the fireplace and causing a fire hazard. If a fireplace does not have a mesh screen, buy one and use it.
Day 11

The holidays are about many different things, but for a lot of people, food is one key ingredient that makes the season special. But when it comes to cooking food - and especially some of the hearty dishes that we often see in winter - it's important to do so safely. In particular, it's key to know how to handle a grease fire if one should start.


Grease Fire Dos

  • Put on oven mitts for hand protection.
  • Eliminate the heat source by turning off the stove or grill.
  • If possible, put out the fire with an extinguisher.
  • If no extinguisher is available, cover the pan with a lid. If it’s a grill, shut the lid.
  • As a last resort, cut off the fire’s oxygen supply by smothering it with baking soda or salt.

Grease Fire Don’ts

  • NEVER throw water on a grease fire. It will actually splash and spread the flames, making a fire harder to control.
  • NEVER use flour or sugar to smother a fire. Rather than helping put out the flames, these can actually cause a powder explosion and do even more damage

Day 12

Today we're going to take a quick trip back to a topic we've already discussed: ice dams. Today we'll look at what can be done to prevent ice dams, rather than dealing with spotting and removing them after they've formed. The key to preventing them in the first place is to get temperatures even across the entire roof - rather than warmer inside and colder on the eaves. 

  • Insulate the attic. Insulation keeps hot air from rising up and heating the roof.
  • Ventilate appropriately. Make sure that ridge and soffit vents are placed appropriately, and make sure that baffles are installed at the eaves to keep the airflow path clear.
  • Seal lights, hatches, and ductwork. All those little things in the attic give off heat! Make sure they’re appropriately weatherstripped, sealed, and insulated.

We hope you have enjoyed our 12 Days of Winter Warnings.

Everyone at Rutt Insurance wishes you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving, a very Merry Christmas, a safe and joyous New Year.

--Content used in this post was originally published by Mammoth Restoration & Construction and is used with their permission.
Posted 9:00 AM

Arm your home against ice damming.
Although it doesn't really feel like winter right now, we all know the snow and bitter cold will be here at some point this winter. A common cause of damage to homes is Ice Damming.
According to the claims journal, winter-related claims add up to over $1billion each year across the insurance industry. One common, yet often overlooked cause of costly damage is ice damming. the best time to mae upgrades and changes to help prevent ice damming damage is before the ice appears.
What is an Ice Dam? 

An ice dam is a ridge of solid ice that forms at the edge of the roof caused by melting snow that runs down a warm roof surface and freezes when it reaches the cold roof eave edge.

Continually melting roof snow causes water to pool behind the dam. The water works its way under the roof shingles and into the house—running down walls, along ceilings and across floors. A roof full of snow could result in hundreds of gallons of water coming into the house. 

Preventing Ice Dams

If the underside of a roof, typically the attic space, remains nearly as cold as outside, little to no unwanted roof snow melting will occur. To keep a "cold roof," consider the following:

• Add insulation. More insulation on the attic floor keeps the heat where it belongs and out of the attic.

• Install ridge and soffit vents. A ridge vent paired with continuous soffit vents circulates cold air under the entire roof.

• Cap your attic hatch. An unsealed attic hatch or whole-house fan is a large opening for heat to escape. Enclose these with foil-faced foam board insulation and aluminum tape.

• Install sealed recessed lights. Older recessed lights give off excessive heat and cannot be insulated without creating a fire hazard. Replace them with sealed insulation contact (IC) rated fixtures, which can be covered with insulation.

• Seal and insulate ductwork. Seal joints of HVAC ducts and exhaust ducts and wrap with foil faced insulation to prevent heat from escaping.

• Consider an energy assessment. An assessment can pinpoint exactly where you are losing heat in the home. It can save you money and possibly prevent ice damming damages.

Enhance Your Protection During the Building Process

The best protection against ice dam damage is to combine cold roof techniques with the installation of an ice shield under the roof itself. This is a waterproof barrier that is installed under the shingles to protect the inside of the house if ice damming occurs. Water cannot penetrate the waterproof roof membrane, which even provides a seal around nail hole openings.

If Ice Damming Occurs

If an ice dam develops and you do not have a waterproof underlayment, contact a licensed and insured roofer. Ice dams are as hard as concrete, and trying to access the elevated roof edges is difficult. Attempting to remove an ice dam yourself can be dangerous.

If water is coming into your home as a result of an ice dam, contact a licensed and insured roofer to remove the snow from the roof, minimizing additional water coming into the house. Address interior damages with buckets and towels wherever possible.

Source: AIG and Westfield Specialty Brokerage.


Posted 10:46 AM

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