Preparing Your Home for the Winter

Monday, December 16, 2013

Shoveling SnowSnow-covered streets and bundled-up Albertans is a standard part of life in Canada during the cold weather months. As such, motorists are often sure to properly winterize their vehicles by having them tuned up, outfitted with the appropriate tires and ensuring that their windshields are ping-free to help stave off a major crack from forming.

But just as important as getting the car ready for winter is equipping one's house so that harsh conditions don't lead to a Calgary home insurance claim.

"Winter weather can cause costly damage to your home," said Amanda Dean, vice president for the Atlantic division of the Insurance Bureau of Canada. "Low temperatures, high winds, significant snowfall and freezing rain are hard on houses. Following a few simple maintenance tips will help keep your home in tip-top shape."

The following tips from the IBC can help homeowners adequately prepare for Old Man Winter and the frigid conditions that are anticipated.


  • Pare back large tree branches. People typically associate trimming tree branches with the hurricane season, which officially ended on Nov. 30. But winter weather can bring significantly sustained wind gusts, so much so that long branches near a residence can cause damage. Be sure to cut them so that they can't scrape up against the siding of the house.
  • Stay ahead of the snowfall. Though work responsibilities may make it difficult, try to shovel, plow or snow blow your driveway or sidewalk multiple times throughout the day. This significantly lowers the risk of someone falling, which could result in a liability claim if the person who slipped is injured.
  • Cover up exposed water pipes. Nothing makes water pipes more vulnerable to breaking quite like the cold temperatures do. The risk of them bursting is magnified when they're exposed to the open air. To prevent freezing, fit bare piping with insulation sleeves, which are typically available at most hardware stores.

These are three of the most important preparations for outside of the home, which is the most vulnerable to cold temperatures. But there's plenty of work that needs to be done inside of the residence, even though this is where things are warm.


  • Check out the attic for signs of damage. As a general rule, attics tend to be the portions of the house that are the least insulated. This makes them more susceptible to being adversely affected by bitter temperatures. Examine the roof of the attic for signs of moisture or wetness, which may be indicative of icicles or frost that's accumulated on the roof and penetrated the interior. The Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation provides tips on how these problems can be fixed, which may or may not be provided for through a standard home insurance policy.
  • Leave the faucet running occasionally. When the temperatures get into the single-digits, it runs the risk of the water pipes freezing. The chance of this happening is less if the pipes are insulated, but it's always a good idea to turn the faucet on slightly so that there's a drip coming out of the tap. This keeps water circulating in the pipes, which can help stave off a problem when the temps dip in the evening and overnight hours.
  • Check fire alarm. Fires in the home occurs most frequently in the winter time. Smoke detectors help to limit the damage by informing residents of a fire, but they're of little use if they're not working. Ensure that the batteries are fresh and that the inside of it has been vacuumed out, as dust particles may compromise the detector's function.

A carbon monoxide detector should also be installed if it hasn't been already. The Government of Alberta provides information on the risks of this odorless gas as well as statistics about how concentration levels have risen in the past 20-plus years in the province.