As far as winter in Wyoming goes, this winter has been relatively easy! We’ve seen lower snow levels on the valley floor, while the mountains are experiencing average snow pack. It would be easy for Wyoming locals to run headlong into spring and forget that we still have some winter left. And, this may mean there still is opportunity for facing some winter perils to our homes and businesses. Actually, there are three major concerns for all of us that we could still have to deal with and they may be: freezing pipes or downspouts, water damage from melting roof snow, and smoke damage from our wood stoves and fireplaces.
Freezing pipes can affect any home or business
Remember just because we have never had a frozen pipe before doesn’t mean we will not ever have a frozen pipe. Honestly, that is the one thing we hear over and over again, “It’s never frozen before.” Why? The number one protection from freezing pipes in our homes and businesses is insulation. However, over time our insulation looses R value. It compresses and becomes less effective. So, if you suspect damage or see those tell tale brown stains left by water, call us at Blue Sky for a free assessment. Shrugging off signs and symptoms of damage because it has never happened before, opens the door to mold, rot, or a leak turning to a burst.
Frozen downspouts can be an issue during our unpredictable thaws. If your downspouts or gutters are dammed with ice and we have one of our beautiful clear winter days which results in some thawing, the water in our gutters and the melt from the roof will have no place to go. Often the result is a back up which will find the easiest way in and will result in water stains inside. Most often these stains will be visible in the corners where ceiling meets wall. Sometimes this water will run a seam or a rafter and present in a straight line from the outside wall across the ceiling. The real damager here is what leaks down into the wall cavity. Again, this can lead to a hidden mold issue or rot. This can also cause damage under windows which become covered by snow and ice.
Then there’s roof slide! At least that’s what we called it when we moved here. We took this picture our first day in Wyoming. That’s right, we moved in winter! Little did we know that mounds of snow and ice would slide off our roof blocking the front door, back door, and garage doors. Then it happened. Even seasoned Wyoming residents are sometimes overwhelmed by the amount of snow that can slide during a brief warm up. Have you thought about what happens to the snow you do not move when it begins to melt? Often it ends up in our homes. Look for moisture under and around garage doors, basement doors, and basement windows. The signs of intrusion may be minimal. Watch for discoloration around door jambs, discoloration on trim or walls, tile floors installed on concrete that loosen or pop when you step on them just right. Like any other water damage, this can worsen in time if left unchecked. So, catching issues like those mentioned above while they are small and manageable can prevent large and more costly issues down the road.
Smoke damage is another side effect of our long, cold winters. Often times homeowners do not recognize smoke damage. We think smoke damage is just the result of a house fire, but not all smoke damage sets off the smoke detectors or requires the fire department to be called out.
Is this a familiar sight to you?
If you have a wood stove that has ever had a clogged pipe or a drafting problem, you have had smoke damage in your home. Even our fireplaces can have drafting problems, dirty chimneys, and puff backs from heavy winds. Isn’t it true that we usually try to fix whatever has caused the smoke to back up, but we forget about the smoke once it has cleared?
Smoke is a gas produced by incomplete burning of materials or fuel. It is only visible thanks to the suspended particles trapped in the gas. Once the gas has dissipated those particles settle on our carpets, upholstery, clothing, and furnishings.
To the right we can see what “minor” smoke damage can look like. The heavy black “dust” on the return vent pictured is actually thick, oily soot being produced by a malfunctioning oil burning furnace.
These “black cob webs” are actually soot tags or soot chains formed in the corner. This is an indication of damage.
Below we see what gradual build up of soot on a ceiling can look like. This damage was caused by a gas log insert. It can also be caused by gas or oil baseboard heat, kerosene heaters, puffbacks from wood or oil chimneys. Maybe one of the other photos is familiar to you.
Even this type of “minor” damage is best cleaned by a professional
It builds up and becomes thicker and more noticeable over time. The soot particles become embedded in carpets and upholstery causing odor and a dingy appearance. This residue can even etch metals and glass; yellow plastics and vinyl (windows); and damage wood furnishings. Painting to cover discoloration is not a long term solution as the smoke will bleed through the paint. However, commercial cleaners have been developed for restoration companies that effectively and thoroughly clean smoke damage, remove odor and often times eliminate the need for painting. Such cleaning is typically covered by a standard home insurance policy. Thorough cleaning would include an inspection to determine the extent of contamination, carpet and upholstery cleaning, as well as cleaning all contents in the affected area. Once the cleaning is complete if there is staining, a standard homeowners policy will typically cover painting as well. If you think you have damage, give us a call for a free inspection.