Residents cautioned to take steps to minimize home damage this winter

By: Brendan Losinski | Metro | Published December 8, 2021

 Residents cautioned to take steps to minimize home damage this winter

Residents cautioned to take steps to minimize home damage this winter

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METRO DETROIT — Winter weather brings numerous risks to the home, but experts say there are several steps homeowners can take to minimize their risks and possibly prevent paying for costly repairs.

Maria Handlen, the vice president of Joe Pizik Electric in Troy, said there are a lot of common risk factors. She said that Joe Pizik Electric offers generators that can prevent damage to the home if the power goes out and temperatures dip.

“Power outages from storms are common,” she said. “People lose power and lose heat, and this causes pipes to freeze. That’s why generators can be important in the winter months. People have a tendency to overload circuits during the Christmas season. They can plug too many things to the same outlet or misuse space heaters.”

Handlen also urged caution when using space heaters. Not only can they be a fire risk if placed too close to materials that can heat up and catch fire, but they also can easily overload circuits and create sparks at the outlet or blow out a circuit breaker.

“We don’t recommend using space heaters since they can overload a circuit easily,” she said. “They can take up the whole circuit, so if a TV or something is running in the same circuit it can cause problems.”

Cleaning gutters and anything else that may hold water also can prevent damage, since water can freeze and later expand when temperatures rise. Keeping them unclogged also can help when the spring thaw comes and can keep water from flowing into or onto parts of the house where it shouldn’t.

To prevent damage from snow thrown by passing plow trucks, public officials suggest tightening the screws on mailboxes so they are secure enough to withstand large amounts of thrown snow. Macomb County Department of Roads Director Bryan Santo encourages residents to check the location, stability and durability of their mailboxes, since road departments aren’t liable for such damage.

“Our top priority is to maintain safe and efficient roads by keeping them clear during the winter months. Mailbox damage caused by snow being pushed to the side of the road is the homeowner’s responsibility to repair,” said Santo in an email. “Taking a few minutes to ensure your mailbox is properly secured will save you time and hassle later on. If the mailbox moves when shaken, it may not survive standard snow removal operations and should be repaired or replaced before winter.”

Maintaining outdoor appliances and yard equipment can be a good idea for homeowners as well. The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute suggests reviewing owners manuals for all equipment, cleaning and servicing equipment before storing it, draining any that use oil or gas before the winter, and keeping any devices in a dry and preferably warm environment. They also advise removing and fully charging any batteries before storing. Keeping batteries in the cold or letting them chill on metal shelves could damage the batteries.

There also are several steps people can take to care for lawn and shrubbery outside the home. Experts advise that homeowners stop trimming their lawn once it freezes, since cutting grass too short can leave it dry and expose it to the elements, as well as insects and disease. Adding a thin layer of mulch to a lawn before it’s too cold can protect grass roots from snow and frost. It can even prevent deeper layers of soil from freezing, making it easier for the lawn to bounce back in the spring.

Homeowners also can remove dead or damaged tree or bush limbs before inclement weather arrives. Snow and ice can weigh heavily on dead branches and make them snap and fall. Shaking branches to get snow off can damage branches and limbs, so it is advised to leave them be at that point.

Marking out areas that shouldn’t be walked on with stakes can prevent damage to things like flower beds. Some experts suggest marking out paths visibly even after heavy snowfall if there are yards with features that can get covered easily. It can also prevent such features from getting damaged if the homeowner is using a snowblower.

Older plants and trees should enter winter well-hydrated, so continue watering even after the leaves have dropped. Even hardy evergreen plants continue to lose moisture through their needles, and if it’s a dry winter, they need supplemental water too.

Lastly, homeowners need to be careful when using salt to melt snow and ice. It can not only damage plants and trees by drawing water away from their roots, but also can be harmful to pet paws if they venture outside. Salt should be cleaned off pet paws following a romp outside in the snow.