This all sounds pretty bad, and of course it can be, but it doesn’t have to, there are some preventative measures you can take to minimize the chances you’ll be on the phone with your insurance agent, or cleaning up water damage this winter.
Start by clearing snow away from the gutters whenever possible which will prevent dangerous ice dams from forming in the first place. If an ice dam does form in your gutter, or even as a preventative measure, you can fill an old nylon stocking with calcium chloride ice melter and drape it into the gutter or onto the ice dam which will slowly break down the ice dam and allow for free flow of the water through the gutters.
You will also want to clear all snow away from patio areas and sidewalks next to your home so water can drain away from the house as it melts, otherwise water can become “pooled” or trapped on the ground in ice dams as well. Remember to clear snow away from downspouts as well to for clear drainage and water flow away from the house. Cleaning snow away from outside window wells is easily forgotten, so do this when clearing the downspouts so you don’t forget this step.
Many people forget that this is a good time to do an extra check of their sump pumps to make sure that they are operating properly which helps prevent basement flooding. I can only think of one thing worse than cleaning up after a flooded basement in the summer due to a sump pump not working, and that would be cleaning up after a sum pump malfunction in the winter.
Mop up any water that has backed up into your house right away to prevent any toxic mold from developing and then make sure that damp walls are completely dry. Using fans, towels and wet-dry vacuums are usually enough to complete this task, but don’t be too proud to call in a professional to make sure that it is done correctly so you won’t have further problems to deal with down the line.
Remembering that too fast a thaw after heavy snows can cause ice jams and flooding will help you to be alert to simple preventative measures. Keep an eye on the forecast after heavy snows and the day or two that you are out ahead of the “quick thaw” that a dramatic change in temperatures brings will prevent major headaches later even if you insurance will cover the damage, which in most cases it will, but this is also a good time of year to review your individual policy to make sure, or make changes if necessary.