Even the mildest of Canadian winters can have destructive effects on materials like concrete, brick and metal. Ice and snow can harm the structure of your home, while resulting water leakage or condensation can also mean costly repairs.

Your insurance policy is not a maintenance policy. It won't cover you if the damage to your home could have been prevented by proper maintenance. The best thing to do is fix things as they happen. Being proactive about maintaining your home can save you in the long run.

  • Make sure your attic is well-ventilated and well-insulated. This will prevent ice dams (an accumulation of ice at the lower edge of a sloped roof). When interior heat melts the snow on your roof, water runs down and refreezes at the roof's edge. Eventually, the ice builds up and blocks water from draining off the roof. This, in turn, forces the water into your home and can cause thousands in damage.
  • Make sure all pipes near the exterior of your home are well insulated. Pipes in attics, crawl spaces and outside walls are particularly vulnerable to freezing in extremely cold weather. Fit exposed pipes with insulation sleeves and consider keeping your cabinet doors open during cold spells to allow warm air to circulate around pipes (particularly in the kitchen and bathroom).
  • Seal all holes in your home's outside wall. Holes allowing for television, cable or telephone lines can leave your pipes and electrical system exposed to extremely cold temperatures and their effects. Use outdoor caulking to seal these small openings in your home's foundation.
  • Shovel and salt icy walkways. If someone slips and falls on your icy step, you may be legally responsible for their injuries. Your property insurance policy offers liability coverage but you need to show that you did all you can to prevent an accident.
  • Make sure roof shingles are in good condition. If the shingles on your roof are loose, shifting ice and water can cause even more damage. Save yourself a costly roof repair in the spring by keeping your shingles securely fastened.
  • Patch cracked masonry. Water in between the bricks of your home will expand as it freezes, melts and refreezes during the winter months. Fixing small cracks will keep bigger ones from forming.
  • Be careful when using fireplaces, stoves or space heaters to stay warm. Proper ventilation is essential. Keep flammable material away from space heaters and do not overload electric circuits.
What if you do need to make an insurance claim?
If you do notice any damage to your home caused by the winter elements, don't wait until the spring. Report it to your insurance company right away. You should make any possible temporary repairs to prevent further damage to your home. If you home was properly maintained, your insurance company will probably cover the initial damage but might not cover the additional losses that happened because you didn't take care of the problem right away.

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