How this week’s bitter cold weather can damage Kentucky’s homes and businesses – and how it can be prevented

With the region’s low temperatures falling deep into (or below) the single digits this week, Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) Insurance Companies wants home- and business-owners to be wary of the potential for damage around their property – especially from frozen or burst water pipes.

SemiAccidentInSnow“When snow, ice and freezing temperatures hit, we typically think first of the mess that it will make on the local roadways,” said KFB Insurance Vice President of Claims, Greg Youngblood, “but we can’t forget that our homes and businesses are also subject to these dramatic changes in weather. We manage a large number of claims each year specifically from homes and businesses damaged by the adverse effects of below-freezing temperatures.”

Unlike most other wintertime claims, snow and ice are not necessary for a pipe to freeze – just bitter cold temperatures. According to studies conducted by the Building Research Council at the University of Illinois, the true threat of pipe freezing occurs when outside temperatures fall to 20° F or below. Pipes located near exterior walls or in crawl spaces or attics are at the highest risk of freezing under those conditions.

Property owners should regularly inspect and protect their homes and businesses from the effects of below-freezing temperatures and winter storms. Taking the time to be proactive around the home or business can help prevent costly losses and big headaches in the long run. These preventative measures can help prevent significant water damage to the interior of homes and businesses, including damage to drywall, ceilings, flooring, furniture and other personal property.

To prevent water in pipes from freezing:

  • Keep the cold air out and the warm air in. Locate holes and cracks in exterior walls or foundations near pipes and seal them with caulk.
  • Wrap insulation around exposed pipes to slow the transfer of heat.
  • Disconnect all garden hoses from exterior faucets.
  • If possible, turn off the water supply shut-off valve to exterior faucets.
  • Run a small, steady trickle of water through interior faucets that are connected to pipes in unheated areas or next to exterior walls.
  • Open cabinet doors below sinks to allow the warmer interior temperatures to circulate around pipes.
  • Drain the water system if the house or business will be unoccupied during winter weather.

Above all, property-owners should know where the water shutoff valve is. In the event that a pipe does freeze and burst, shutting off the water at the source can lessen the total damage.

While it may not be possible to completely stop the effects of adverse weather conditions on a person’s property, these suggested steps can lessen the blow in many circumstances.

Additionally, not all insurance policies cover every type of winter damage. Policy holders should call their local agent to learn more about the kind of coverage their property has for winter perils.

“The value of a property owner’s awareness and preparation for winter weather cannot be overstated,” concluded Youngblood. “It is definitely worth the time and effort to work these things out before a storm than after it hits.”

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