It’s like a horror movie – woodstove fires, ice dams, frozen pipes, slips and falls – my God, when will it stop! Actually, this is all just a day in my life. I love the winter. I love to ski. However, these other “perils” we can all live without. The funny thing is, they are all preventable with not much effort. Unattended though, they can cost you thousands of dollars in damages, loss of precious possessions or even loss of life.

Take heed residents of the north-east to these tips!

1. Woodstoves – I think they must be the lead cause of cold weather fires. There are many different reasons why they cause fires:

a. Not properly installed to code – if you are not sure if your woodstove was installed to code, have it checked out. The code specifies how far the woodstove should be from walls, furniture, surrounding floor, etc. and also gives specs on how the stove pipe should be installed.

b. Creosote builds up in the stove pipe and catches fire which in turns escapes the pipe and spreads to the adjacent walls/ceiling, etc.

c. Stuff (yes, just plain ole stuff) is kept too close to the woodstove and catches fire

2. Ice Dams – ice dams are formed when snow on your roof melts and then turns to ice when it reaches the eaves. The ice builds up and the4 water keeps coming. Soon the water is built back up under the shingles and drips into your attic, on down through your ceiling and walls. Prevention of ice dams is easy – purchase a roof rake from your local hardware store and removes the snow from the edges of your roof (as far up as you can reach). This will prevent the buildup of ice. NEVER go on your roof and attempt to pick or shovel off the ice or snow…very dangerous (duh).

3. Frozen Pipes – this seems to affect our secondary homeowners more than primary homeowners. Frozen pipes happen when the heat in the house gets too low (nothing new there). BUT, what you may not realize is even if you set the temperature to 50 degrees, there are remote areas, walls, etc. that may not stay that warm. Plus, heat rises, so often times it is colder at floor level making these remote areas even colder. The pipes freeze and go unnoticed for a week or so as you are away. When warmer temperatures return, the water starts flowing but the ice caused the pipes to crack and the water escapes the heating system. We have actually had insureds call our office in July to report a water damage claim…and yes, the water was still running. Those are major…MAJOR claims. There is a device you can purchase called a low temperature sensor which will call a number if the temperature falls below a specified level. The cost is less than $100.

4. Slips and falls – no surprise here. Keep your sidewalks and driveway free of ice and snow.

And one last thing. Make sure your home is insured to replacement value. A devastating fire could destroy your home. In and of itself it’s a terrible ordeal. Don’t add insult to injury by finding out later you don’t have enough insurance to rebuild your home. See a local Professional Insurance Agent and ask them for a Replacement Cost Estimate.