Getting Your Faith Clients Ready for Winter Weather

Dec 2021

With winter right around the corner, there can be a host of problems for church buildings, especially large old ones. Check out this winter checklist to make sure your faith organization client’s place of worship is winter-ready.

Common Winter Hazards

Frozen pipes

Churches across the country are exposed to this risk during the winter. A frozen pipe can easily burst and cause severe water damage very quickly.

The best way to prevent pipes from freezing is to keep them warm throughout the year. Even when the building is not in use, this can be achieved by maintaining a 55-degree temperature inside. In addition, the following should be performed on a regular basis:

  • Ensuring that a 55-degree temperature is maintained in attics and other areas where pipes pass run
  • Installing insulating sleeves in any exposed pipes
  • During the winter months, check the building more often to ensure the heating system is working and to detect a burst pipe quickly before it causes extensive damage

Snow accumulation

Churches in northern climates and regions with high snowfall are at risk for roof damage or collapse. Snow accumulates on top when it is unable to melt in time. Keeping gutters and downspouts clear can help reduce the costs of roof replacement. Here are some other preventative measures that should be performed regularly:

  • Checking gutters and downspouts for leaves and other debris a few times a year
  • Ensuring the drains on flat roofs are not clogged
  • Performing routine roof maintenance during the warm months and repairing leaks and damaged shingles quickly to prevent problems during the winter

Slips and falls

Winter can be the most dangerous season for slips and falls. It is very easy for a church to be held liable when a slip or fall occurs due to negligence, such as failing to clear a sidewalk of ice. Having many claims can be very costly for a church, as the insurance companies look at both the number and the cost of claims.

It is important for churches to keep their sidewalks and steps free of ice and snow to prevent injuries. These areas should be liberally covered with ice melt, salt, or sand. To prevent drips as people enter and exit the building, place non-slip mats and rugs on tiled surfaces. Immediately clean up any wet spots and place wet warning signs.

5 Areas to Keep Winter-Ready

  1. Heating system

To ensure that heating systems are working properly, they should be serviced. The best way to ensure quality maintenance and service is to hire a certified professional. Furnace filters should also be checked on a monthly basis. If the filter is in good condition, it may need to be replaced every three months.

  1. Water pipes

A church’s pipes can be severely damaged by the winter cold. Ice can form or pipes can burst due to low temperatures.

In order to protect any church from this type of situation, the following precautions should be taken:

  • Insulate pipes exposed to freezing temperatures or located in unheated areas.
  • During extremely cold temperatures, turn faucets to a slow drip in an effort to prevent freezing.
  • Insulate the outside walls and unheated areas of the building.
  • In the event of a frozen or burst pipe, turn off the main water valve and contact a licensed plumber as soon as possible.
  1. Roof and gutters

Church staff should make sure all gutters, leaves, and downspouts are empty prior to winter. The roof should also be checked for possible leak sources.

In the winter, it is important to prevent ice dams on roofs, which are caused by snow and ice buildup. Here are some tips to help prevent ice dams:

  • Ensure that the attic is adequately insulated and ventilated.
  • Increase ventilation by installing soffit vents.
  • Ensure that all attic openings, such as heat ducts, light fixtures, and vent pipes, are sealed.
  • Using a snow rake, remove snow from the roof edges two to three feet away.
  1. Handrails and pathways

Be sure that handrails are adequately secured and in good condition to prevent slips and falls. De-icing products should also be applied to walkways, especially in front of entrances.

  1. Faucets and lawn irrigation system

Before the winter freezes, the lawn-irrigation system should be drained and the hoses disconnected. In this case, it might be wise to hire a professional.

SWG Specialty – Faith Organizations Liability Insurance

South Western Group understands the unique insurance needs for places of worship. SWG Property – Faith Organizations Liability insurance program is designed to meet the unique requirements of faith communities with an eye toward helping them avoid the tragic consequences of underinsurance arising from outdated buildings, shrinking or growing congregations, and an expanded role in the community.

Coverage highlights:

Aside from providing coverage for your property, we can offer several extensions to include:

  • Headstones
  • Monuments
  • Tombstones
  • Crypts
  • Stained glass windows
  • Pipe organs
  • Religious artifacts
  • Heritage buildings
  • Building By-Laws
  • Loss of income
  • Professional fees
  • Daycare operations under the faith organization
  • Additional Living Expenses for religious personnel residing in manse or rectory
  • Crime Coverage for Employee Dishonesty, Credit Card Forgery, Computer Fraud and Funds Transfers
  • Abuse coverage
  • Directors and Officers, counselling services liability
  • Umbrella Liability for higher limit requirements
  • Comprehensive Equipment Break-down
  • Cyber Liability

For more information about our policy, visit our website:

Content is current as of the date of broadcast and is subject to change without notice.