Winter can be a truly beautiful season, but the falling snow and dropping temperatures can also cause problems for your home. During the colder months we rely heavily on the mechanical systems in our homes and it is important that our heating, plumbing and electrical components work properly. Be prepared for the weather – focus on these areas in and around your home to stay safe and avoid future problems:

Prevent Ice Dams

Ice dams are created when a roof has improper ventilation, heat begins to collect and melts the snow that is on the roof. The water from the melted snow then runs down and freezes in the eavestrough – forming a dam. Most of these issues start with the attic, so make sure the space is properly sealed, ventilated, and insulated. The attic is a ‘cold zone’ and should be the same temperature as the outside.

Clean the Gutters

Gutters should be cleaned out before the snow falls. During the cold weather, clogged gutters will cause large hanging icicles to form and/or the accumulation of ice on the roof. Ensure gutters are free of leaves and debris for water to run freely.

Frozen Pipes

A big problem many home owners face during the winter months. Pipes freeze when they are improperly insulated and/or are not used for prolonged periods of time. Prevent this by wrapping inside pipes with insulation material and ensure exterior plumbing lines are drained. Allow a bit of water to run through the faucet and flush toilets every so often to keep water moving in extremely cold conditions. If there is no flow from one faucet and the rest work fine, this could be a sign of frozen pipes. Remember, if you have one frozen pipe – the others in the same area are vulnerable as well.

Broken Pipes

When water freezes, it expands. This puts pressure on the container holding it. Frozen pipes can break and this can lead to flooding. You may not even know a pipe is broken until after it thaws out, at which point you may come home to a flooded house. If you think you may have frozen pipes, contact a licensed plumber to investigate before any bigger problems occur.

Shovel Safety

Clear your walkway, driveway, and sidewalk soon after a snow fall. This ensures your safety and the safety of pedestrians walking by your property. Putting off snow removal can also create more work. If the temperature changes, you may be left shoveling heavy slush or snow with layers of ice. The City of Toronto states that sidewalks should be cleared no later than 12 hours after a snow fall. Failing to do this can result in a $125 fine.

Fireplace Safety

Ensure that your fireplace is usable and safe. Wood-burning fireplaces should be checked by a specialized inspector and gas fireplaces should be checked yearly by a licensed gas technician. It is very important to ensure your gas fireplace is working correctly – otherwise there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Have your chimney cleaned and inspected yearly to ensure that the flue is intact. A small fracture can expand into larger cracks and allow toxic fumes to seep in. Placing a gate in front of a wood-burning fireplace keeps embers in and children and pets out. Always ensure a fire is completely out before leaving your home or going to bed.

Taking a few extra precautions now will ensure that you are able to stay safe and warm during the holidays and enjoy peace of mind for the rest of the season.