by Angie’s List Staff

Pining for a quick end to the deep freeze that’s set in across much of the country? Be careful what you wish for. Unless you’re ready for the thaw, you may find yourself dealing with roof, ceiling or other water damage that will be both mess and expensive to fix.

“Homeowners need to be preparing now to deal with water issues when all that ice and snow melts,” said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews on local service companies. “Best-case scenario: gutters and landscaping will drain the water away. Worst case: major water damage in ceilings, walls and basements.”

Dozens of roof collapses have occurred after heavy snow fell on roofs already layered in ice. Other structures have suffered ceiling damage. Homeowners have been reaching out for help with the elements even before the thaw. In Indianapolis, for example, Angie’s List reported a 97 percent increase in requests for roofers and 1,300 percent increase in requests for ice and snow removal in the week that followed the ice storm compared to the previous week.

“Homeowners who suspect they’ll have issues should inspect their homes and look for reliable local contractors if they need help,” Hicks said. “Don’t wait until the ceiling actually collapses. The best contractors will be working around the clock, so it’s in your best interest to get in line ahead of the crowd.”

What to do if the water comes in:

* Don’t enter rooms with wet, sagging ceilings or water above electrical outlet level.
* If it’s safe to do so, turn off circuit breakers to the affected areas, and unplug electrical devices.
* Review your insurance policy to understand your coverage. Call your agent to get the process started. Take photos so you can detail damage for your claim.
* Move wet items to a dry area as soon as it’s safe to do so. Remove as much excess water from furniture, etc. as possible by wiping, blotting and mopping to minimize mold growth. Place aluminum foil or wood blocks under the legs of furniture to prevent staining. Use wooden clothespins to keep furniture skirting off damp floors, and hang draperies with a coated hanger to avoid contact with wet carpeting or floors. Remove and prop up wet upholstery cushions for even drying.
* Remove area rugs, books, all paper items, shoes or other objects from the floor that could transfer stains to the carpet. Move paintings, art objects, computers, documents and other materials that are valuable or sensitive to moisture to a safe place. Remove wet fabrics and dry them as soon as possible. Hang furs and leather goods to dry separately at room temperature.
* Check Angie’s List for reputable contractors who can detect a structural issue that, if addressed, will minimize another flooding experience.

Preventative steps you can take now:

* Heavy snow and ice fall can damage roofs but it’s dangerous to remove the elements without proper equipment and training. Hire reliable help to assess your needs and remove roof snow and ice.
* Clear as much ice and snow as possible from the areas near the outer walls of your home to minimize water seeping into your foundation. Clear window wells, too.
* It’s too late to fix poorly installed or damaged gutters and downspouts, but it’s a good time to review your structures and determine what you can do to get the most out of them.
* If you anticipate wetness in your basement, go ahead and get cardboard boxes, rugs and vulnerable furniture off the floor now.

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