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Winter Readiness Checklist

Winter Readiness Checklist

Winter Readiness Checklist

Preparing for the arrival of harsh winter weather is more than a matter of convenience: it’s critical to protecting your safety and health. Serious injuries are all too common in the winter, from slipping on icy walkways, to hypothermia or frostbite, or even having a heart attack or stroke while shoveling snow. And being without electricity, running water, food, or communication during a major snowstorm can be extremely dangerous, to say the least.

Winter readiness involves your home, your pavements, your car, and your wardrobe.

Below, we offer an organized winter readiness checklist to help you prepare for the upcoming cold season:

How to winterize your home:

  • Be sure your attic is well insulated and well ventilated, both to prevent undue heat loss and to minimize any ice damming that may occur on your roof.
  • Put in storm windows, or encase windows in plastic from the inside of the house. If you can afford it, install newer, more energy-efficient windows.
  • Caulk around windows and doors if not already done, and re-caulk spots where the caulk line has cracked. Also install weather stripping under your doors.
  • Guard against freezing pipes by keeping indoor temperatures above 40 or 50 degrees Fahrenheit (5 or 10 degrees Celsius), even when you’re not home.
  • Get a chimney/flue inspection before winter arrives.
  • Never use your gas stove to heat your home.
  • Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans. Fans typically have a switch to change direction. For winter use, make sure the fan runs in reverse, or counterclockwise when looking straight up at it. This will pull the cool air off the floor and circulate the warm air back down along the walls to the floor.
  • If you use space heaters, keep them several feet away from all furniture, curtains, or other flammable objects.
  • Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.  Check the batteries when winter begins and have extra batteries on hand. More than 400 people in the U.S. die each year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. That’s more than one person per day!
  • Have a professional roofer inspect your roof for leaks, and have a tree trimming service remove any overhanging, dead, or dying branches that could impact your roof during a storm.
  • Keep a battery-powered emergency radio ready on hand, along with other means of communication like cellphone, landline phone, and Internet connection.
  • Keep current on weather forecasts, and have a plan for verifying to family/friends that you are safe when a storm strikes.
  • Keep other emergency supplies in storage, including non-perishable foods, a can opener, bottled water, warm blankets, flashlights with accompanying batteries, extra prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines, as well as a complete first aid kit.

How to keep your pavements safe to walk/drive on:

  • Have your driveway and walkways inspected and any cracks or surface damage repaired before winter. Winter is the harshest season of the year on concrete and asphalt, and it is best to enter it with your pavements in top condition.
  • Ensure you have all necessary snow and ice removal equipment. If you'll be shoveling, get an ergonomically designed, lightweight shovel. If you use deicers, store up a supply that will last all or most of the winter before the first snowfall. If you use a snow blower, inspect it and make sure it’s working properly.
  • If you can afford it, install a heated driveway to eliminate the need for shoveling and deicing. A less expensive option is seasonal snow melting mats, that will do much the same job without the need to tear up your existing pavement.

How to winterize your car:

  • Ensure you have the proper level of antifreeze and other fluids in your car.
  • Keep your gas tank full as much as possible so that water will not freeze in your fuel line.
  • Buy new snow tires if the treads are worn, and check for proper tire pressure. In high-snow areas, consider using tire chains.
  • Verify your battery is in good condition and replace it if it’s getting too old.
  • Have your starter and brakes checked.
  • Carry a small snow shovel and bag of sand or kitty litter in your car. This will help you dig out and gain traction should your vehicle get stuck in the snow.
  • Keep a vehicle emergency kit in your car with jumper cables, an ice scraper, emergency flashers, a flashlight, bottled water, a warm blanket, a first aid kit, and other emergency supplies.

How to winterize your wardrobe:

  • Make sure you have a warm winter coat, but also a lighter jacket that can be worn beneath the winter coat. Dress in layers, with light, sweat-wicking materials on the skin and progressively heavier clothing on outer layers.
  • Wear warm gloves that allow enough grip and flexibility to be used for driving.
  • Stock up on warm hats, scarfs, ear muffs, warm socks, and long underwear.
  • Buy some high-traction boots or shoes. Make sure they are relatively lightweight and fit well, but not so tight as to cause foot pain and/or sweating.

Winter brings its own set of dangers, difficulties and challenges. But if you follow our winter readiness checklist, you’ll be prepared for just about anything the cold weather can throw at you.

Are You and Your Family Prepared for Winter Storm Season? Six Questions to Ask Yourself

Are You and Your Family Prepared for Winter Storm Season? Six Questions to Ask Yourself

Are You and Your Family Prepared for Winter Storm Season? Six Questions to Ask Yourself

is predicting above-average snowfall for the East Coast this winter, and a long winter for the entire U.S. What this means is: if you haven’t already done so, now is the time to get ready for winter storms (especially if you live in an area where storms like these are a possibility).

If you want to make sure your home, car and family are prepared for winter, there are six important questions you need to ask yourself:

1.  Do you have a winter storm emergency kit?

If not, you should. Of course your emergency kit should have all the standard first aid supplies, but in addition: you need to include everything you and your family would need in order to survive being snowed in for a minimum of three days.

This includes:

  • Non-perishable food items and bottled water (enough to last three days)
  • A manual can opener
  • Medications for colds, coughs, fevers, headaches, and other common ailments
  • A back-up supply of any medications you or a family member take on a regular basis
  • One or more reliable flashlights with unopened packs of backup batteries (if possible, include a battery pack for your cell phone too)
  • A battery-operated, NOAA Weather Radio that will keep you up to date on forecasts even during a brownout
  • A generator that can be used to run lights, heaters, and appliances during power outages, along with a sufficient fuel supply
  • Extra winter clothing and warm blankets

2.  Do you know how to make sure everyone’s okay?

If you know a storm is coming, contact your loved ones before the storm hits and let them know where you plan to be, and the best way to reach you (if possible). Texting and social media are both good options for contacting loved ones in an emergency, if you have a working cell phone.

If you need to call someone, keep your conversations short: this not only helps keep phone lines free for 911, it also helps conserve your phone’s battery. And keep in mind that cordless phones don’t work in a power outage. If you have a landline, make sure you have at least one corded phone in your house. If you rely on a cellphone, make sure it’s charged before the storm hits.

If you have neighbors — especially elderly or disabled neighbors — they may need extra help during an emergency. To help make sure everyone is taken care of, you can assign “block buddies”.

3.  Are your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors working?

Be sure to have carbon monoxide and smoke alarms installed in every inhabited room. Check the batteries when winter begins and have extra batteries on hand. More than 400 people in the U.S. die each year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. That’s more than one person per day! 

4.  Have you winterized your home?

This may include re-insulating and re-ventilating your attic, re-caulking around windows or installing more energy-efficient windows, attaching weather stripping under your doors, insulating any pipes that could freeze during an outage, installing storm windows, and having fire extinguishers ready.

5.  Do you have good snow and ice removal tools on-hand?

First, you need to stock up on snow and ice removal tools like a lightweight, plastic, ergonomically designed snow shovel, a deicing product (preferably not rock salt since that popular deicer is very harsh on both pavements and the environment) and sand or kitty litter that you can sprinkle on your driveway and walkways to improve traction.

Second, hire a professional roofer to inspect your roof as soon as possible. If there are any loose or missing shingles, dislodged pieces of flashing, or potential leakage points, get these problems repaired before winter begins. Winter is the harshest season of the year on roofing, so start the season with a fully prepared roof.

6.  Have you winterized your car?

Before winter begins, it is wise to get vehicle safety inspection done by a professional mechanic and to make all necessary repairs. Brakes must be in top condition, tire treads not worn too thin, exhaust pipes free of leaks, and batteries reliable and fully charged. Also be sure your lights, heater/defrost, ignition, thermostat, and all crucial vehicle components are reliable. And take care to get your antifreeze, oil, and fluids topped off, while never allowing your gas tank to be less than half full (so the gas cannot freeze).

You may need to make an emergency drive to the hospital or another location during winter, and you can't afford to have your vehicle break down on you.

Also consider that a storm may come while you are already out on the highway and force you to stop by the roadside. For this reason, be sure to stockpile blankets, food, water, a first aid kit, and other emergency items in your vehicle.

If you can answer “yes” to these six questions, then you’re well prepared for winter storms.

The Average Cost of Hail Damage Repair

The Average Cost of Hail Damage Repair

The Average Cost of Hail Damage Repair

Many homeowners are prone to ask, "What does it cost, on average, to repair the damage done by a hail storm?" The question is important, and hail damage repairs can often cost thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the hail, the impact angle and force, and the duration of the storm.

The truth is, however, that hail damage varies widely in total cost and falls into three major categories: roof damage, pavement damage, and vehicle damage. Siding, fences, and decking can also potentially suffer harm from hail impacts, but we should focus here on "the big three" that we have identified.

Hail Damage to Roofing

Being more exposed to the weather than any other part of the house, roofs take the brunt of every hailstorm. Asphalt shingles, while the most common and among the cheapest forms of roof material, are prone to severe damage by hail stones, given the right conditions.

Oftentimes, hail will leave circular dents, dings, and cracks predominantly only on one side/section of a roof or scattered here and there throughout. This makes it possible to usually replace only a portion of the shingles, but untouched shingles adjacent to damaged ones will have to be taken up and put back down during the repair process, which adds to labor costs. You can easily expect a few hundred to a few thousand dollars of damage in these partial replacement jobs.

When the damage is severe and widespread enough to call for total roof replacement, you could be looking at a $10,000 to $20,000 (approximately $13,440 to $26,880 CAD) bill. Luckily, homeowners' insurance will typically cover this expense, and you will only have to pay the deductible and any peripheral expenses like replacing pieces of rotted-out roof decking. However, insurance companies will withhold the "depreciation" value, meaning the difference between the value of a brand new roof and the value of your not-brand-new roof. If your roof is, say, 10 years old, expect $3,000 to $5,000 (approximately $4,032 to $6,720 CAD) to come off. Many insurers will "refund" the depreciation sum directly to the contractor after the new roof is on, but it won't be in your initial cash claim.

Finally, note that, whether replacement is total or partial, you can expect to pay $400 to $700 (approximately $537 to $940 CAD) per "square" (100 square foot roofing section). This includes material, labor, underlayment, flashing, and everything. The total cost is around $4,000 to $5,000 (approximately $5,376 to $6,720 CAD) on an average-sized roof, but this does not include extra for tearing off the existing roofing.

Hail Damage to Driveways

Concrete pavement should not be significantly damaged by hail, unless it was improperly installed to begin with, but asphalt driveways are often victimized by hail stones. Even basic homeowner's insurance, however, usually covers hail damage to asphalt surfaces, so long as the insurer's assessor agrees it really was hail that did the damage.

In mild cases, you can probably just patch up any dimples and reseal the surface, which ought to be done every 3 to 5 years anyway to strengthen the surface and keep it from getting too brittle in cold weather. This may not even cost $100 (approximately $134 CAD).

The next level is to have your asphalt resurfaced, which averages around $1.50 to $2.50 per square foot (approximately $21.69 to $36.15 CAD per square meter). It can be done in a single day, and would cost $750 to $1,250 (approximately $1,008 to $1,680 CAD) on a 500-square-foot (46.45 m2) drive.

If the hail damage has weakened the underlying structure enough to merit removal and replacement, you will be looking at about $3 to $4 per square foot (approximately $43.39 to $57.85 CAD per square meter). That's $1,500 to $2,000 (approximately $2,016 to $2,688 CAD) to replace 500 square feet (46.45 m2) of pavement.

Keep in mind that the real costs will vary greatly based on local pricing, size of driveway, and how "high-end" you choose to go.

Hail Damage to Automobiles

Often overlooked is the cost of hail damage to vehicles, but the total price tag can be quite significant. It is common to see prices of at least $30 (approximately $40 CAD) per hail impact for PDR (paintless dent repair) of even the smallest hail dents. Medium-sized dents may cost $50 (approximately $67 CAD) to remove, and large dents can cost up to $80 (approximately $107 CAD) per dent.

If the dents are in hard to work on areas like the car's roof, the cost goes up. Finally, broken windshields average about $300 (approximately $403 CAD) to replace.

If you have comprehensive auto insurance (often the case when you have not yet paid off the car loan), hail damage will be covered.

Hail damage costs homeowners millions of dollars in damage every single year in the U.S. While it often cannot be prevented, there are ways to minimize, and homeowner's and comprehensive auto insurance policies will cover it. Knowing the potential costs of hail damage ahead of time will help motivate to guard and insure against it so you are not caught unprepared should a major hail storm hit your home.