Winterization Delays Can Be Extremely Destructive and Costly

Property Manager with J T Stewart Enterprises, Inc.

     Anyone having anything to do with property preservation or the the maintenance and management of foreclosures or REO's knows that timely rekeying, securing, lawn - landscaping, cleanout and cleaning are all important aspects to protecting and preserving the property. Obviously, this also pertains to any other vacant house that may be traditionally listed as well. However, beginning in the fall and throughout the winter, nothing becomes more important than the winterizations. Basically, a winterization involves shutting off the water supply, draining and/or blowing out the water lines under positive air pressure, and adding anti-freeze to the toilets and drains. This is all done to protect the plumbing system from freezing and causing damage to it and/or the property. Even the smallest delays in performing this service can be extremely destructive and costly. Water is one of the most destructive forces in nature and for those who have never seen what it can do to a house that is not winterized or not properly winterized, I have included photos and an excerpt from our "cleanout foreclosures" property preservation training and business startup manual.


Ice blocking front door




Ice covered fixtures


Ice damaged walls


Ice covered windows




More icicles




Ice covered walls


Ice on walls


Ice on ceilings


toilet frozen solid


I had a broker call me at 8:00 p.m. on winter evening and asked if I could do an emergency rekey and winterization on a house that had a bunch of ice blocking the front door. I went there and met the broker and there was ice three feet thick covering the entire front door. I had never seen anything like it. I went to the back door and it even had ice coming out through the bottom of it. I gained entry after basically having to smash the back door in because the ice was blocking it and all the windows had bars on them. There was so much ice on the floors you could have ice skated in there. It even had what looked like snow all over the inside walls, so much that you could have made a snow man. When we walked, or basically slid, into the living room, which just happened to be located under the upstairs bathroom, we found that the whole living room was nothing but a bunch of large icicles from ceiling to floor. It was an unbelievable thing to see inside a house. The place was absolutely destroyed! Here, the water lines broke at the worst possible place they could, at the very top of the house and drained throughout the house and froze on the way down. That water flowed from top to bottom and destroyed every wall, ceiling and floor of the house. It even cracked the floor joists. To make matters worse, the floor drains in the basements were either blocked or there wasn't any. There weren't even any basement windows so the basement filled up with water and ice to the main floor and the water flowed out the bottoms of the doors to the outside. The house suffered extensive damages. It was an amazing thing to see, but I hope to never see it again. Even though this house was never initially winterized, this can also happen if its not properly winterized. Getting a timely, properly trained preservation contractor is key to making sure this never happens to you.

      For your safety: I've had a lot of houses where I've entered and the water has been flowing out of the walls and ceilings, etc. Thankfully, most of the times the water breaks we encounter are usually confined to areas near the main shutoff or lower floors and not all over the house. It's very common to have water breaks in the basements and usually the floor drains keep the house from flooding. But, if the floor drains are clogged or non existent then you could have a basement full of water. So, don't be surprised when you get up to a property and hear water running on the inside. When you see or hear this you will have to use extreme caution!

      If you come across a property where the floors are wet and/or basement that is flooded or full of water, don't walk into it until you can verify that the electric is off! Remember, electric and water do not mix and you do not want to get electrocuted. I suggest you call your customer, a licensed electrician or the power company and/or all three before you enter to verify that the power is off and it is safe to enter. If you're sure the power is off, and you verified it by all the above means, and you feel it is safe to go in the property then carefully enter to see what is causing the water problem. Again, if you're not absolutely sure the power is off and its safe to enter, don't go in! Property damage can be fixed, but losing your life to an electrocution cannot!

 About the Author: J T Stewart is the president of J T Stewart Enterprises, Inc. founded in 1992. The company is a full service property preservation and REO property services firm providing maintenance, eviction, and repair services to numerous customers in the banking, lending, and real estate field. The company has provided services in 24 counties in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania for the past 10 years. Stewart's 20 years of experience in the construction and home maintenance field and five years as a consultant for the garbage industry coupled to give Stewart the perfect background to become a property preservation and maintenance contractor. The company currently employs 10 full time employees and has its principal offices located in East Liverpool, Ohio.  J T Stewart is also the author of Cleanout Foreclosures: "Make money cleaning out and maintaining foreclosures" which is a 184 page manual and forms CD that sells for $199.00. The Cleanout Foreclosures package is a complete foreclosure cleanout and property preservation startup package available from the companys website at The startup package teachs others nationwide how to start and run their own profitable foreclosure cleanout and property preservation and maintenance service in their area.

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