STEVE: Hi, this is Steve Westmark. Thanks so much for watching my video blog this week. This week, I brought in a gentleman who has been doing winterization of houses for over 30 years, and it’s Don Houlding of United Real Estate Services.
DON: Good morning.
STEVE: Don, I’m going to ask you questions about winterizing of a home because homes with plumbing can have problems. Why should a person have a home winterized as they leave for a period of time?
DON: Steve, I’ve learned over the years as a licensed plumber that homes can freeze up in Minnesota’s cold weather without ever even having the heat fail. I do recommend to my customers even when they call and say, “You’re not going to do the job” have somebody winterize the property. They need to be protected in case that damage occurs because when a pipe bursts in a home and the water’s on, the damage can be catastrophic.
STEVE: Houses that aren’t winterized and have a problem like that, sometimes you’ve told me that people should really check their houses for insurance. What are the things that they look for in their insurance or they need to ask their insurance agent?
DON: Absolutely, it’s critical to call an insurance agent and find out if the home is vacant for more than 30 days will their homeowner’s insurance remain in force. If the home is vacated for more than 30 days, it’s very common that the homeowner’s insurance actually cancels, and there’s no advance notice of that. So people leave thinking that even if there is a problem they’re covered when in fact, they’re not.
STEVE: So Don, I know you’ve run into some problems in the past where a house wasn’t winterized. What have you found as far as some of the costs that have happened and the downsides that could occur?
DON: Well, Steve, in the 30 years I’ve been doing this, the most difficult thing I still run into is to walk into a home where the pipes have broken and the water was left on. The damage can be to hardwood floors, to carpeting, to floor joists. Sheetrock becomes soaked. I’ve seen it fall off of basement ceilings. Windows become frozen solid, and it takes weeks, sometimes months to dry the home out. The expenses run into the tens of thousands of dollars to put all of that back together again. And then it’s difficult to say that everything is back 100%.
STEVE: So in a nutshell, Don, what happens when you go to winterize a house? What are the things that you do that helps the house get winterized?
DON: Well, the first thing we do is turn the water off at the source. If there’s a water heater, we remove it. If there’s a well, we turn the power off to it. All of the plumbing is drained down, hot and cold water. We do add non-toxic antifreeze into places where water would collect, usually things like toilet bowls, traps, drains, dishwashers. That way there’s a little bit of water left, but they do have antifreeze in it, so it won’t freeze if the heat does fail.
I do install a temperature alarm in the houses that I winterize so if the heat fails, we still want to get in there and get it fixed even though the plumbing’s protected. It’s structurally hard on a home to let it freeze. So we need to get out there and take care of that furnace and get it going, and we don’t frost on the walls and ceiling. That’s pretty much in a nutshell it.
STEVE: Well, thanks so much, Don, for coming in today. And what’s the best way for them to get a hold of you to get work done?
DON: I can be reached in my office. Phone 651-452-5261 or I’m happy to be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
STEVE: Great. Thanks, Don.