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Is your home storm ready for a Michigan winter?

(MGN Online)

This Winter Survival Guide article is sponsored by Hammer Restoration, Inc.

A winter storm occurs when there is significant precipitation and the temperature is low enough that precipitation forms as sleet or snow, or when rain turns to ice. A winter storm can range from freezing rain and ice to moderate snowfall over a few hours, to a blizzard that lasts for several days. Many winter storms are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures.

Winter storms can cause power outages that last for days. They can make roads and walkways extremely dangerous or impassable and close or limit critical community services such as public transportation, child care, health programs, and schools. Injuries and deaths may occur from exposure, dangerous road conditions, and carbon monoxide poisoning and other conditions.

Roger Thornton from Hammer Restoration makes the following suggestions when it comes to being prepared for this possible cold weather disaster:

Prepare your home:

  • Make sure your home is well insulated and that you have weather stripping around your doors and window sills to keep the warm air inside.
  • Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.
  • Insulate your home by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside to keep cold air out.
  • If you have a wood burning fireplace, consider storing wood to keep you warm if winter weather knocks out your heat. Also, make sure you have your chimney cleaned and inspected every year.

Have at least one of the following heat sources in case the power goes out:

  • Extra blankets, sleeping bags, and warm winter coats
  • Fireplace or wood-burning stove with plenty of dry firewood, or a gas log fireplace.

Michigan winter and extreme cold temperatures also mean homeowners and businesses need to be prepared for frozen pipes.

How to prevent frozen pipes:

There are a number of things, some long-term, some short, that you can do to protect yourself from that bit of winter unpleasantness.

  • Put adequate insulation around pipes that are vulnerable to cold air.
  • Wrap heat tape around such pipes.
  • If practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water supply to outdoor faucets during the winter. This will prevent freezing in a short span of the pipe inside the house from the faucet. At a minimum, disconnect garden hoses from faucets to release accumulated water.
  • Keep water dripping or trickling from faucet farthest from where the water main enters your house. This will keep water moving through most of your plumbing and discourage freezing.
  • If you have pipes that aren’t insulated in an exterior wall near a sink, leave open cabinet doors beneath the sink to let warm air in.
  • If you plan to be away for several days, keep your heat on – not necessarily full blast, but enough to discourage freezing of pipes. Ask a neighbor to make sure the heat is still on.
  • An alternate plan if you’re leaving: shut off the water, drain the water supply by opening a faucet at the lowest point in the house and put antifreeze in the toilet bowl and traps under the sink and tub.

What should I do if my pipes freeze?

If you turn on a faucet and get no water, your pipes may be frozen. If your pipes freeze, there are some procedures that you can follow to thaw them. The sooner the problem is recognized, the better chance that damage will be minimized.

Some techniques for thawing frozen pipes include:

  • If possible, expose a boxed-in area to the inside heat. An example includes opening some ceiling tiles if your home has a drop ceiling.
  • Use a heat gun. However, be extremely careful as the heat from the heat gun will ignite any wood or paper it contacts.
  • DO NOT use torches to thaw pipes!
  • Rubbing the pipes with warm, damp rags may slowly thaw the line.
  • If you do not have water for an extended period of time, special attention should be given to hot water heaters and boilers.

What should I do if a pipe breaks?

Shut off your water immediately, using your home’s shutoff valve.

Where are my shut off valves?

There are actually two major shutoff valves in line with your service. The first valve, called a curb stop, is generally located near the property line and is normally housed by a cylinder with a cap on it called the curb box. The other major valve is located in the home next to the water meter. Other valves may be near plumbing appliances such as sinks and toilets.

Keeping your main valve in good working condition will assure you that you will be able to turn your water off in the event of an emergency, in case one of your water pipes breaks, for example. Older style gate valves should be turned periodically due to possible corrosion build-up. Newer Teflon coated ball valves should stay in working order without any regular turning.

After you have shut off your water and you have water damage you can call Hammer Restoration to begin mitigating any future damage caused by the water.

For over 50 years, Hammer Restoration has been a family-owned and operated Michigan company, helping homeowners and business owners with restoration and building/remodeling needs. We serve homes and businesses in Michigan and the Great Lakes Bay Region.

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