December 29, 2023 Bailey Strobel

7 Ways Winter Weather Can Wreak Havoc on Your Home

Winter is a beautiful season with enchanting snowfall and crisp, cool air. However, it can also be fierce and unforgiving, bringing below-zero temperatures and strong winds that can cause severe damage to your home. Left unchecked, you could be dealing with some expensive repairs come springtime, so it’s important to know what kinds of issues to anticipate and how to prepare adequately. From the roof to the foundation, here are seven ways winter can wreak havoc on your home.

1.  Chimney Cracks

Your chimney’s masonry can withstand extreme heat conditions, but not so much the freezing cold. When the bricks absorb water, the moisture inside freezes, causing the masonry to expand. The ice then thaws when the sun comes out and causes the masonry to contract. This continuous loop of expansion and contraction can quickly lead to spalling and delamination — or cracks in the concrete in lay terms.


Over time, the crumbling masonry can make the chimney structure unstable, increasing the risk of a full-on collapse. You might spend anything from a few hundred to thousands of dollars to fix a cracked chimney.


2.  Roof Damage

Strong winds, heavy snowfall and accumulating ice are a destructive combo for your home’s roofing. Powerful gusts can pry up roof shingles or even blow them right off.

Large amounts of wet snow and ice build-ups can put significant pressure on your roof, causing it to sag. Usually, anything over 20 pounds per cubic foot of snow on your roofing is problematic, leading to possible cave-ins. The risk exponentially rises with older buildings or homes whose roofing structures have seen better days.

3.  Gutter Ice Dams and Icicles

Gutters are crucial in safely channeling water and snowmelt away from your roof. However, if they’re clogged or otherwise damaged by the time winter arrives, it won’t be long before ice dams and icicles start to form.

Ice dams occur when heavy snow buildup melts and refreezes in the gutters and along the roof eaves. Eventually, icicles form, adding to the pressure on the troughs.

Damage from ice dams and icicles can be costly to fix because they prevent proper drainage, causing water to seep under your roofing shingles or trickle down the walls, and pool on the ground. Sometimes, the pressure from the ice buildup can pull down the gutter and downspout, exposing your roof to water damage.

4.  Siding Issues

Your home’s siding may be susceptible to the same freeze-thaw cycle that affects your chimney’s masonry. When the siding material absorbs moisture, cold conditions cause it to expand, while warm weather causes it to contract. As the cycle happens over and over, the material can eventually crack, resulting in serious structural damage to the siding.

Additionally, siding materials like wood do not hold up well to cold weather and can quickly warp or even rot, leading to substantial damage. Heavy winter storms can loosen the siding for homes with vinyl siding, exposing the insulation and leading to a freezing cold home interior.

5.  Door and Window Damage

Freezing temperatures can cause your door and window frame materials to warp. Drafts can seep through the gaps caused by the warping, effectively ruining your home’s insulation. In some cases, the damage can become so extensive that you might need to replace the entire frame in the spring season.

Extreme cold can also cause the door and window glass to become brittle, making it easier to crack or shatter. However, you can take some solace in knowing that this issue mainly affects older, single-pane glass and improperly installed doors and windows.

6.  Plumbing System Problems

Winter conditions can spell all sorts of problems for your home’s plumbing system. Exposed or uninsulated pipes are vulnerable to freezing. Frozen water can burst the pipes, leading to bigger plumbing issues. If the line leading to the water heater is frozen, it becomes difficult for water to get into the system. Over time, this can lead to water heater failure.

Clogged drains and septic line failure are other potential problems from frozen pipes. When freezing occurs in the main line connecting the septic tank, your home’s drainage system can get backed up. Sewage leaks can occur, creating even more damage.

7.  Basement Flooding and Foundation Issues

Heavy snowfall accumulated on the ground will eventually melt and pool on the floor. If your home does not have a way to deal with the runoff, the water will seep into the ground and flood your basement.

Cold temperatures can also cause frost heave — a potentially dangerous situation caused by ice formations in the soil. When this occurs, the ice creates pressure against your home’s foundation and can cause it to shift. As a result, you may start to notice foundation damage, including cracks in the walls and uneven flooring.

Handy Tips to Prep Your Home For Winter Weather

Proactive maintenance goes a long way in helping you prepare your home for the destructive power of winter. Follow these helpful tips to stay ahead:

  • Inspect your roof. A roofing inspection before winter can reveal vulnerabilities early before they lead to more extensive damage down the line. Remember to include your chimney in the inspection list.
  • Install an ice and water shield. This shield can effectively stave off ice buildups in your gutter. However, check that your contractor is using enough — many misinterpret the 24-inch rule and only install one row where two might be necessary.
  • Recaulk doors and windows. Recaulking improves sealing, helping to prevent cold air drafts from seeping into your home. In this way, it also helps improve your heating system’s efficiency, lowering energy costs.
  • Remove nearby tree branches. Leaves, twigs and other debris are the leading causes of gutter blockage. Cut any branches close to your roof to reduce the risks of clogging when the cold winds start to blow.
  • Drain exterior faucets. This is to prevent undrained water in the pipes from freezing. Disconnect all external hoses and turn off the water supply to avoid a frozen buildup.
  • Divert water away from your property. Add extensions to your downspouts so water drainage is at least three to four feet away from your home’s foundation. Put some rocks or gravel at the end of the extension to help avoid soil erosion.

Is Your Home Ready for Winter?

Extreme cold weather conditions can wreak havoc on your home. Now’s the time to make sure your property is ready. Taking proactive steps helps you avoid costly repairs and provides peace of mind, knowing your home can withstand the challenges of winter.

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