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Expect the unexpected: preparing your house for unpredictable winter weather

When is a weather forecast not a weather forecast? When it’s the Met Office’s three-month ‘outlook’ – an experimental, predictive method that weighs up the probabilities of certain types of weather occurring based on current conditions.

While the Met Office themselves admit that it’s not infallible, comparing it to factoring the odds on a racehorse, it is useful if you’re planning ahead and want to ensure your house is prepared for the worst.

The current outlook suggests that the next 3 months is more likely to be dry than wet, however, colder spells of weather remain possible. Here are some tips on how to protect your home from the wind and rain.

•Your roof is your front line of defence against the elements, and so make sure it’s up to the task by giving it a full inspection. There’s no need to climb up onto the roof for this as you can see a lot from the ground – and even more with a pair of binoculars. Look out for broken or missing tiles and any other areas of damage.

•A dark stain on your ceiling is a sure sign that your roof is leaking. This will mean a trip up to the attic to locate where the water is entering. Look for a corresponding stain on the interior woodwork – not quite as easy as it sounds, since the leak might not be directly above the ceiling stain. If you’re really stumped (and it’s not raining), get someone to spray the roof with a hose and look for the drips.

•Leaks often occur around chimneys. Check for cracks in the mortar and loose flashing. If you think you have a problem here, it’s best to call in a builder to properly assess the situation.

•Similarly, check around any plumbing or heating vents for cracks and flashings letting in water.

•Asphalt roof tiles can become brittle with age and snap in high winds. They also shrink with age, exposing fixing nails to the elements and causing leaks. They are fairly easy to replace if you’re feeling brave enough. Much the same goes for other types of roofing material, tile, slate etc. There are no end of instructional roof-repair videos on the web but, if in doubt, call a roofing specialist.

•If roof tiles have been damaged for some time, the wooden lath underneath might also have rotted and, if so will need to be replaced. If the damage is bad enough, there may also be holes in the roofing felt, which will also need repairing. Again, unless you’re an experienced and confident DIY-er, this is best left to the pros.

•The points where two planes of a roof meet (known as valleys) can become clogged with leaves causing a dam-like effect. Have them swept out with a broom to prevent water accumulating.

•All sorts of problems can occur with blocked guttering, including interior and exterior water damage – in extreme cases, leaking gutters can allow water to seep into your house’s foundations. Sweep out any debris in gutters and drainpipes and give them a good blast with a hose. Installing mesh gutter guards is well worth considering.

•Windows are also vulnerable to wind and rain and so give them all a good going over and apply sealant where necessary.

•If the weather turns colder (as the Met Office suggests is possible for late autumn), snow and ice could become a problem. The precautions above should give you plenty of protection but, in addition, try to prevent snowdrifts from forming on your roof and around doors and windows by clearing them before they build up.

•Ice dams are thick ridges of ice that can build up on your roof in extreme cold and trap water. They’re difficult to remove and so call in a professional, or stop them forming by installing or repairing loft insulation. This will ensure your roof temperature is warmer and less likely to form ice on the outside.

As a general rule for any winter preparation, make sure that all points where water can breach your house’s outer shell – chimney breasts, eaves, heating vents, window frames, door lintels and so on – are in good repair and properly sealed. Then you can sit back and relax, knowing that any bad weather that’s on the way, will stay firmly on the outside.