Top 5 Ways Prepare a Vacant Home for Winter

Winter is here and it is projected to be a cold one. If you own a vacant home, then you should be prepared to have it winterized. Not doing this vital task could lead to costly repairs and unexpected work that could decrease the value of your home. In this article, we look at the top ways you can have your investment last the entire winter while avoiding unnecessary damage.

#1 Frozen Pipes Should be Your Greatest Concern

One of the biggest blows to your wallet with a vacant property is water damage from a frozen pipe. Water expands to about 9% when solidified, which means when water is left inside pipes during the wintertime, they run the risk of expanding and bursting open. To make the problem worse, these vacant homes are unattended, and the home could continue to fill up with water for days until a neighbor recognizes the problem when water is exiting the home and entering the street.

The Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness estimates that each winter a quarter of a million homes suffer damages from frozen pipes. 250 gallons of water a day can leak from an eighth-inch crack, causing massive damage to furniture, floors, and property. This can affect any types of pipe, including PVC and copper.

Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Frozen Pipes?

Yes and no. Most insurances will cover what is referred to as “sudden and accidental” water that discharges from a water source. Some exceptions to this rule would include if the damage was caused by the lack of maintenance. Insurance carriers do expect you to maintain regular maintenance of your home. If they find that the damage was due to negligence, then your claim may not be covered. An example of this would be if you turned off the heat in the home or didn’t have the city shut off the water.

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

Turn off water supply

This is the most important thing you can do is to shut off the water. Especially if the home will remain vacant for the entire winter. This means shutting off the water at the main valve, which is sometimes located outside.

Drain your pipes

There is also water inside your pipes that may be left over. It is important to drain this to make sure there isn’t water in the pipes that can also freeze. The best course of action, depending on where you live, is to contact your city’s water company as they would know best how to prevent frozen pipes.

Insulate pipes

Whether the water is turned off or not, it is a good idea to insulate the pipes. Pipes in the crawl space or run outdoors could be exposed to freezing temperatures and should be maintained to give you added protection.

#2 Turn Down the Heat but not off

Even if your home is completely paid off, your vacant home will have regular bills. It is suggested that you not turn your heat completely off but turn it down to about 60 degrees. This will save you some money on the heating bills and prevent some of the damage listed above.

#3 Get Rid of Trash to Prevent Unwanted Guests

One of the most invasive things you can have in your home is a rodent infestation. Having a vacant home, with a food supply, like leftover food, can leave a welcome mat for rodents. Rats and other rodents can find their way into your home because they are looking for warmth, food, and comfort. Rats can burrow their way through insulation, wood, and wires. Once inside, they will make their nest and multiply. Additionally, they can gnaw through wires in your appliances and cause house fires.

Rats will be attracted to pet waste, old food, and water (dripping pipes). They can gain access to this through cracks or holes in your home that you may not be able to notice. Rats can fit inside a gap that’s a half and inch thick. They can also climb trees that will give them access to the roof area.

It is important to check the perimeter of the house for any gaps that a rat can easily burrow their way through, Additionally, remove any food source they may find like, food, animal waste or water source.

#4 Unplug Appliances

It’s a good idea to unplug your major appliances like the stove, refrigerator, and microwave. These unattended appliances can lead to electrical damage which then leads to house fires. Old appliances are especially susceptible to shortages and electrical damage.

#5 Remove Obvious Signs of Vacancy

The last thing you want is a break in while you are away. When the snow is piling up with no footprints, mail bursting out the mailbox and no cars in the driveway, it leaves obvious signs that the owners are away. Vacant homes are susceptible to have the hot water tank stolen, appliances or someone to squat in the residence.

Its good practice to hire a snow removal company to regularly plow. Not only with this thwart the obvious signs of vacancy but it’ll keep you from getting a ticket by the city for not maintaining the property.

If you have a security system, keep it active. If not, think about getting one or a Ring Doorbell that would actively record anyone approaching the residence and give a signal to burglars that they are being watched.

There you have it! The top ways you can protect your home investment when winter hits. Now I want to hear from you! Do you have any suggestions? Anything I missed? Send me a message and I can add it to this blog post. Also, if you want to sell your vacant home before winter is over, then send me a message. I buy houses at anytime of the year and I offer all cash no obligation proposals for your home regardless of damage or condition.

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