Avoiding the need to file insurance claims is the number one way to keep your premiums as low as possible. With winter on the way, now is the time for Alberta property owners to get ready for the cold weather by making sure their homes, commercial facilities and outbuildings are equal to the challenges the elements will pose.
Preparatory strategies differ, depending on whether you’re winterizing a residential or commercial property. Some specific building shapes and types also require additional considerations, so be sure to plan early so you can complete your tasks in advance of the first snowfall.
Winterizing a Residential Property
Preparing a residential property for winter requires that you check for cracks and gaps that might allow heat to escape while making sure the building has adequate insulation. Frozen pipes can also cause major headaches, so it’s also a good idea to pre-empt this possibility by paying attention to your plumbing.
Here’s a checklist of the things you should do:
- Perform a thorough visual inspection of the property, checking both the interior and exterior of the building for cracks, gaps and weak points where cold air could leak in and heat could leak out
- Pay extra attention to your home’s foundation, windows, window frames, doors, door frames, crawl spaces, patios and decks, and brickwork
- Seal off all cracks and gaps using a winter-formulated sealant and caulk
- Make sure your eaves and gutters are clear of any debris that could inhibit proper drainage, or you may end up with ice dams during the winter
- Inspect exposed ducts and vents to make sure they are structurally sound and free of gaps and cracks
- Insulate exposed ductwork
- Have your furnace inspected and serviced by a licensed technician
- Purchase and install a winter insulation kit for your windows, or invest in windows with better insulation ratings if yours allow too much heat to escape
- Turn off the water supply that services any outdoor pipes
- Inspect the roof to make sure it’s holding up, and correct any structural problems immediately
- Trim or remove any tree branches that hang too close to the home, as they could collapse under the weight of a heavy snowfall and cause damage
- Review these important safety tips if you have a fireplace
- Insulate all exposed pipes inside your home to guard against the possibility of costly bursts
Investing a little in proper winterization can save you a lot of money, by preventing accidents and damage as well as by boosting your home’s overall energy efficiency.
Winterizing a Commercial Property
The principles of commercial building winterization are similar to that of personal property. You want to guard against heat loss by sealing off cracks and gaps, make sure your insulation is up to speed and prevent ice dams by clearing leaves and debris from eaves and gutters. However, there are some additional considerations for commercial property owners.
First, there is the question of removing snow from the roof. Current guidelines suggest that commercial building owners should consider professional removal if more than 20 cm of snow has accumulated on a rooftop. The weight of snow can endanger the structural stability of the roof, and this is as much a safety issue as it is a maintenance issue.
Second, it’s also a good idea to undertake a thorough roof inspection. Any problems, such as pooling water, loose or dilapidated roofing components, aging support beams and joists, and so on, should be promptly remedied.
Finally, be sure to evaluate the working condition of all heating, water, steam, tank, lines and vent components servicing the building.
Preparing Outbuildings for Winter
Sheds, garages and other outbuildings should have their pipes and water lines completely drained. Be sure all windows and doors are properly secured and that there are no other cracks or gaps, since animals might seek refuge from the cold and create major problems come spring.
All vacant and unoccupied buildings should be inspected every 72 to 96 hours, please refer to your policy for exact details or consult your insurance broker. You should also document the property’s condition during every visit in case insurance claims become necessary. Snowbirds should arrange to have someone check their property while they’re away, and inform their insurance company of their upcoming absence.
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Lane’s Insurance is a leading provider of residential and commercial property insurance for Alberta residents. If you’re looking for an insurance broker that protects your best interests with outstanding service and claims support, please give us a call!