It's always a relief to get through a major cold snap without a burst pipe or a power outage. But even if it seems like you made it through unscathed, there may be harder-to-spot damage around your property. Here's a 5-point checklist you can use to stop minor problems before they become major.
1. Take a peek at your pipes
Head up to the attic and down into your basement or crawl space and visually inspect any exposed plumbing. Even if your pipes didn't noticeably freeze, or if they thawed out without bursting, they may have developed smaller, subtler leaks. Run your finger over the seams and joints to check for hard-to-spot leaks. In the rest of your home, listen for dripping or rushing, and check under sinks. If you find a problem or notice a drop in water pressure, turn off the water and call a plumber for help.
In the days immediately after severe cold, finding a plumber to fix a small leak can be challenging. They're often booked solid with customers whose pipes have frozen and completely burst. As a temporary measure, you can use a repair clamp
- basically a circular clamp lined with rubbery material - to minimize the leak while you wait. When you turn the water back on, keep an eye on the clamp and check on it periodically until the plumber fixes it.
2. Consider your car
Cold weather can wreak havoc on automobiles, too. Common cold weather complications include low battery levels, cracked belts and wiper blades, low tire pressure, and frozen fluids. Keep your car winter-ready with the following steps:
- Keep jumper cables on hand in case of problems with the battery, and consider using a winter-blend washer fluid to prevent freezing.
- Visually inspect your car before driving to spot low tire pressure and cracked belts or wiper blades.
- Stop off at an auto parts store or service station if you need to top off your tires or replace wiper blades. Many belts are easy enough to change on your own as well.
3. Restock and replenish
If you live in an area where extreme weather is common, chances are you've prepared ahead of time by stocking the pantry, collecting an adequate supply of drinking water, and perhaps even investing in a generator. At the beginning of winter and immediately following any extreme cold snaps, restock your supplies. First, top off the fuel in your generator and make sure the cold hasn't damaged connections or belts. Next, restock the pantry with provisions, necessities, and maybe even a few games to keep the children entertained the next time you're stuck indoors.
4. Check for damage to trees and landscaping
Trees and plants, even those that go dormant during winter, can be susceptible to damage due to the cold. Prevention, such as mulching, covering plants, and bringing pots inside, offers the best protection for your landscaping. You'll also want to visually inspect trees after extreme cold. If the trunk is leaning more than 15 degrees, the tree may be in danger of falling. Severe cold can also cause freezing sap to swell and damage trees from inside. Watch for split or missing bark, deep cracks, holes in the trunk, and shattered limbs. Call an arborist if you find a tree that's damaged or leaning.
5. Look in on your neighbors
More than 60 percent of temperature-related deaths are related to cold weather exposure.1
Once you've inspected your own property for problems, check in with your neighbors to see whether they need assistance. In particular, seniors and people with disabilities are at added risk of hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning, especially during power or heat outages
By following these steps, you can help make sure that you (and your neighbors) make it through a rough winter without a major incident.