When you live in a colder climate, ice comes with the territory. Whether it’s the result of freezing rain or simply part of the thaw-freeze cycle that happens when the sun is out, ice is part of winter weather. However, it can also be a nuisance and, in a worst case scenario, extremely damaging to your property. Luckily, with a little prep work and a daily check of the weather, you can stay one step ahead or, at the very least, be prepared when things get icy.

Pipes

Pipes are probably the biggest freeze risk at home. Not only can they seriously inconvenience your day by limiting plumbing in your home (from showers to tap water), they can also burst. When pipes burst, you’re faced with property damage and costly home repairs. If those pipes are in an enclosed space, such as within the wall, this damage and cost can rise quickly. Here’s a quick recap of how to prevent them from freezing:

1. Disconnect (and drain) garden houses

2. Insulate exterior spigots

3. Keep your thermostat above 55 degrees at all times

4. Open kitchen cabinets to allow heat to enter.

5. Insulate pipes in cold-prone areas

6. Consider heating your basement

7. Keep windows closed, especially those near pipes

8. Set water to drip from the faucets

9. Keep the garage door closed1

However, pipes aren’t the only thing you have to consider. Garage doors, tree branches and roof lines are all subject to a deep freeze, so we’ve outlined a few preventative measures and/or fixes to help you stay safe and ice free.

Garage Doors

Due to their exposure to the elements and contact with the pavement/asphalt, it’s common for a garage door to freeze shut. Though there’s not a lot you can due to prevent this from happening, getting a garage door unstuck doesn’t have to be a miserable process. These simple steps should have your door open - and your car free - in no time:

1. Disengage the door from the motor. Pulling the emergency release cord (usually a red handle and/or cord hanging from the motor) allows you to lift the door manually. NOTE: Neglecting this step can damage the motor.

2. Try manually lifting the door. This force alone may break the ice seal.

3. If lifting the door doesn’t do the trick, grab an ice scraper and head outside. Being careful to not damage the rubber seal, scrape ice away from the base of the door.

4. Still no luck? Try using a heat gun. This may take a while, but the head can melt the ice without damaging the door.2

Tree Branches

This one might seem odd. Trees are part of nature and they should be free to freeze, right? Yes, but it’s a good idea to be aware of where exactly these trees and branches sit. More specifically, you should check for any branches that may stretch over your house, garage, or power lines. When heavy with ice, branches often break and, if these branches stretch over power lines or otherwise vulnerable areas, they can cause damage as they call. The last thing you need in a blizzard or ice storm is a power outage or property dame, so consider trimming branches where necessary.

Roof Lines

Due to both heat from the sun and heat escaping your house, ice can build up on the edge of the roof. From icicles hanging off the edge to ice ridges/buildups/dams that gather on the roof, these issues multiply in older houses and houses with poor insulation. This ice can damage your roof and, when it falls, can damage property or cause significant injury to people or pets. To prevent or minimize ice:

1. Have your insulation professionally assessed to find problem areas. Repair/installation can sometimes be cost prohibitive, but it’s a good first step.

2. Have your ventilation checked and seal all leaks, especially those in the attic.

3. Consider investing in a roof rake. Essentially a rake-style shovel on a long, flexible pole, a roof rakes allow you to remove snow from your roof. Regular removal is one of the best ways to prevent ice.3

There’s a lot to consider when the temperature drops, but a preparation can save you a lot of stress, money and time. Without having to worry about ice, you might even find yourself enjoying the season.

1. http://www.redcross.org/get-help/prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/winter-storm/frozen-pipes

2. http://homeguides.sfgate.com/open-frozen-garage-door-25406.html

3. https://www.minnpost.com/minnesota-blog-cabin/2015/11/should-you-install-heat-cables-prevent-ice-dams