What Kind of Damage Do Blizzards Cause to Homes?

Author: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Last Updated on

The first snow of the season catches everybody off guard. We keep up with weather reports, take all the right precautions and get ready to dig in. Somehow, we’re always amazed at how severe our winter storms can be.

As the city’s leading storm cleanup contractors, we stay busy this time of year helping property owners recover from storm and water damage. The combination of high winds, snow and sleet takes a serious toll on area homes.

Besides slick steps and frozen sidewalks, what kind of damage do blizzards cause to Chicago homes?

10 Ways That a Blizzard Can Wreak Havoc on Your House

Winterizing your home is an important seasonal routine. It makes a big difference in how well the house weathers freezing temperatures. Still, it’s unsettling to experience first-hand just what damage blizzards can cause.

1. Frozen Pipes Burst

Even when you’ve done your best, plunging temperatures can freeze insulated pipes. As the water inside plumbing turns to ice and expands, it causes problems ranging from small cracks and leaks to complete system failures. The resulting water damage can be severe.

2. Ice Dams Form on the Roof

ice dams on chicago roof
Ice dams on a home’s roof / Image via Flickr

Accumulated snow on the roof begins to melt and then freezes into layers of ice along roof edges. The process forms a thick ridge of ice dams putting additional strain on already-stressed roof edges, fascia and eaves.

3. Roof Runoff Soaks the House

Often, the damage from accumulated snow and ice on the roof can’t be seen. As temperatures rise and fall through the day, the snow pack on top of your house melts and then refreezes. The process causes water to seep into brickwork, siding and even ceiling joists causing hidden structural problems.

4. Snow Causes Roof Collapse

roof collapse house
Roof collapsed from too much snow

Just 1 cubic foot of wet snow on the roof can weigh 12 pounds. Multiply that by your overhead square footage, and it’s easy to understand how the massive weight can cause a roof to collapse. This type of dangerous snow damage results in extensive structural repairs.

5. Tree Branches Break and Fall

Blizzards soak trees with freezing rain that turns into heavy coatings of ice. The weight pulls down small branches and shears heavy limbs. Large, falling branches damage the roof, tear up siding and crush outdoor fixtures.

6. Gutters and Downspouts Split

frozen downspout
Frozen downspout / Image via Flickr

What kind of damage do blizzards cause inside your roof’s drainage system?

When winter storms wash debris through gutters, plunging temperatures slow down the water flow.

Eventually, frozen water inside gutters and downspouts expands causing splits, and its weight buckles the system.

7. Outdoor Things Become Airborne

Chicago’s 2011 blizzard shut the city down for several days with wind gusting between 30 and 50 miles per hour. That kind of force turns ordinary objects like lawn chairs and trash cans into airborne projectiles that smash windows, damage roofs and dent cars.

8. High Winds Rip Off Shingles and Flashing

loose roof shingles
Loose roof shingles 

That same wind velocity tears up loose shingles and peels back flashing. Its force leaves your home vulnerable to water damage ranging from small leaks in the attic to breeches in roofing underlayment. Blizzard conditions also wear down the protective granulation on roof shingles.

9. Melting Snow Floods the Basement

When things finally begin to thaw out, heavy snow and ice runoff quickly soaks yards and fills up street gutters. The soil around your foundation becomes saturated with moisture that seeps into the basement through small cracks. In a matter of hours, you have water flooding downstairs.

10. Power Outages Complicate Everything

frozen burst pipe
Frozen pipes that have burst / Image via Flickr

Technically, an outage doesn’t damage your home, but it can be responsible for serious problems. A house without heat sets the scene for frozen burst pipes. If you don’t have a backup system for the sump pump, you face basement flooding. Both situations result in extensive water damage.

Dangers of Blizzard Cleanup

When pipes rupture and sump pumps fail, you need professional water damage cleanup as soon as possible. Standing water soaks and weakens floors and walls, and freezing outdoor temperatures don’t stop mold from taking hold in the damp materials inside.

We know that you can handle some of these problems on your own, but always be careful. The dangers of cleanup after a blizzard include electrical hazards, backed-up sewage and unstable infrastructure.

If you feel like the project is too big or you have any doubts at all about your personal safety, bring in a professional restoration company right away.

Call Us First 24/7

storm damage contractors chicago
Our ServiceMaster Chicago storm damage cleanup van

While our list covers 10 common types of blizzard storm damage, we’d like to hear about your experiences. Tell us what you’ve dealt with at your home during our worst winters. Just post your input through our Comments Section.

In our years of experience as storm cleanup contractors, we know you can’t prepare everything. If blizzards or freezing temperatures damage your home, we’re ready to help with a 24/7 response. ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba stands as one of the most trusted storm cleanup companies in Chicago and the suburbs, so call us first.

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