Your home is taking a beating right now, with cold, snow and ice from this New Jersey winter all taking their toll, and as famed Jersey resident Yogi Berra once said, "It ain't over till it's over."

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Frank Vodraska, a professional home inspector with Whitehouse Home Inspections in Pittstown, has been in the business for 30 years and said winter's freeze-thaw cycle causes the most damage to rain gutters and roofs.

"What happens is, when you get any minor penetration where moisture can get in, you get a little frost behind it, and that ice that occurs, it expands and it separates the division between the two materials further," he said.

Vodraska said that type of problem is very common with this type of weather, and unless the gutters were cleaned in the fall, it's pretty tricky to get them cleaned up now -- given safety issues like getting up on ladders and roofs with ice and snow around.

"The frost lifts shingles, it gets up, it gets inside," he said, "and then when it goes down the walls, it ruins the insulation. It can cause electrical problems, it can cause mold, and it will destroy the interior finishes."

According to Vodraska, homeowners should make sure gutters are clean going into the fall and be sure of the integrity of their roofs, because that is the gateway to both structural and interior damage.

Here are some tips for maintaining your home's integrity through the long, cold winter:

  • You want to keep that integrity in good shape, right from the beginning.
  • Make sure (ideally in the fall) that you turn off all of your outdoor water spigots. Each hose line should have a shut-off in the basement. If you fail to do that, the pipes can freeze and send your place into a whole other world of damage around that outside spigot. "There are other options available, hose bib covers, that type of thing," Vodraska said.
  • Seal all of your doors as early in the season as possible. Make sure of a tight air seal that keeps the house warm and free of drafts.
  • Check your fireplace chimney. Make sure that if you are using a fireplace, it is maintained properly and is safe.
  • Right now, a lot of people are buying auxiliary generators. If you have an auxiliary generator for bad weather or outages, you should have it properly installed by a licensed electrician.

In summary, Vodraska said your home can "take it," that it is built to withstand the rigors of the winter season and the freeze-thaw changes. However, he adds you have to stay on top of the maintenance and "sweat the little things," to keep them from turning into bigger problems.