Our ability to withstand the frigid weather, accompanied by ice and snow, has contributed to the national character, molding us into hardy, resilient individuals, while our capacity for making the most of the cold has brought us joy in the shape of such sports like hockey, curling and ice skating.
When people portray Canadian winters on television, in advertising, in stories or in movies, they often revert to the nostalgic images: chilly hockey arenas on winter mornings; children participating in a rousing snowball fight; and families sitting around a fireplace with a roaring blaze.
However, along with its pleasures, winter also brings the potential for damage to our homes and hearths. Before the cold sets in for the long-term, take some time to make yourself aware of possible winter hazards:
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes:
Indoors or outdoors, your pipes are vulnerable when the temperature dips too low. Water freezes in the pipes, and its indoors or outdoors, your pipes are vulnerable when the temperature dips too low. Water freezes in the pipes, and its expansion may cause the pipes to burst, leaving you to clean up the mess.
Rather than waiting for trouble to find you, track down any pipes that may be exposed to cold air, especially those in the basement or attic, and wrap them with insulation. If a pipe does freeze, take action: open the tap fully and use a hairdryer to warm the pipe. Work your way along it and you’ll find the frozen spot; when you melt the ice, water will gush from your tap.
Roof Leaks and Ice Dams:
Winter weather can play havoc with roofs. Constant battering by the elements can cause decay in the supports, the shingles and the insulation, leading to leaks. Ice dams can also result in leaky roofs.
Especially on pitched roofs, falling snow can slide down the slope of the roof and accumulate at the edges, causing icicles or blockages to form on the eaves. This accumulation prevents moisture from running off the roof properly and it may leak into the attic.
In addition, water can collect in your eavestroughs and freeze, preventing it from flowing out through the downspout and potentially causing siding problems or roof rot. If the water hasn’t been flowing, it may be worth your while to have an expert come to check your eavestroughs and clear them if needed, or you can have heated cables attached to your roof to help melt the snow. The cost of maintenance will be considerably less than the price to repair damage.
Fireplace Safety in Winter:
We may sing about chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but, in truth, open fires indoors are a hazard, given the possibility that they may spread and become uncontrollable.
Make sure the flue is open for proper venting when you build a fire in the fireplace and place a screen around the fireplace to keep sparks from flying. Burn hardwoods, such as maple or oak, that don’t create as much ash as softer woods; avoid burning paper, cardboard or trash for the same reason.
Chimney Maintenance and Cleaning:
A fire in the fireplace helps to brighten a room in the winter dark and warm its occupants. However, if you don’t ensure your chimney is well maintained, you could have problems. A chimney that hasn’t been cleaned before seasonal fires are lit may mean smoke that wafts back into the house, creating a breathing hazard.
In addition, an unclean chimney will have creosote – the sticky residue from burning wood — built up inside, which can potentially lead to a chimney fire. In addition, chimneys can become home to leaves and birds’ nests, causing dangerous blockages that can lead to smoke and fire.
Also, be sure that your flue closes tightly when the fireplace isn’t in use, or you may feel unpleasant drafts that cause your furnace to work harder.
De-Icing Your Driveways and Walkways:
Eavestroughs aren’t the only place where ice can accumulate and cause winter problems. Sidewalks and driveways freeze over quickly when snow and sleet falls.
Many municipalities have bylaws that require you to shovel your sidewalks within hours after a snowfall to prevent others from slipping and injuring themselves, but even without that incentive, keep your own family safe by clearing your driveway and walkways.
Salt, sand and kitty litter can help to melt precipitation and/or offer some extra traction to pedestrians. If you’re worried about falling on someone else’s property, add some winter cleats to your wardrobe.
We’re Canadians, and winter is part of our DNA. If we prepare appropriately, the season should be one of joy, not headaches.