Q: My wife and I just bought our first home in New Jersey. Neither of us have ever lived in a house before (we were both born and raised in Manhattan) and we feel overwhelmed by all of the snow we've got. Icicles hang from our gutters. Should we do something about it? And if so, what? Could our pipes freeze? We've shoveled our way and our steps, but what about the drifting snow on the side of our foundation?
ON: Homes in the northeast should be designed to withstand winter weather. However, problems do arise, especially if you neglect the maintenance of your home. If your home has been inspected before you buy it, read the report to see if the inspector found any problems. Next, take a closer look at these icicles.
"Icicles are beautiful to look at, but not good," said Kevin Busch, vice president of operations at Mr. Handyman, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, part of Neighborly, a household services franchisor. "They're usually an indication of what can be a relatively small problem but can get bigger." At the very least, the ice could damage your gutters. Go outside and check out your gutters to make sure they are intact. Once the snow melts, let them clean.
The bigger problem would be an ice dam – a layer of ice near the edge of the roof – that can damage your roof and shingles. Go to your attic and make sure no water gets in. If you think you have an ice dam, contact a roofing company as you may need to improve the insulation or ventilation in your attic.
Check the exterior of your home, including the trees around your property, to make sure there are no heavy branches threatening your roof. Also, examine your foundation for cracks and seal up any found. As the snow melts, watch for signs of pool water and divert it away from your home.
Make sure your dryer vent and exhaust pipes for your oven and water heater are clear of snow. Remove the snow from the ends of the gutter downspouts so that the water can keep moving once the snow begins to melt.
To protect your pipes, keep the house at a comfortable temperature even at night or when you are out and about. Insulate the pipes along the outside walls. On very cold nights, you can keep the cabinet doors open to allow warm air to reach the pipes along the outside walls and allow the water to drain slowly. Close the outside spigots for your yard if you haven't already. Then sit back and try to enjoy the snowy winter in your new home because the season will be over soon enough.
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