Winter-proofing your house
If we are honest with ourselves the onset of winter doesn’t always shape up to our cosy thoughts of chestnuts roasting on an open fire and Jack Frost nipping at our noses. Instead, a British winter is notorious for cold and wet weather that, at best, makes a walk to the shops a misery, and at worst can wreak costly havoc on your home. The following are our handy hints to help you avoid expensive weather-related repairs.
There are two main things to consider when making your home winter-proof, stopping water from getting in and preventing pipes freezing. These are usually the cause of the most expensive cold weather damage.
Before you make your winter protection list, you need to take a good look both inside and outside your home to assess what needs some TLC.
- Clear gutters of leaves and debris. Blockages can cause gutters to overflow which can drench walls and cause damage.
- Insulate external water pipes and taps with waterproof tape, old cloth or similar materials. If pipes freeze they can split, causing huge leaks and eventually flooding.
- 33% of heat lost in the home is through the walls. Cavity wall insulation is a good option and can boost your home’s value, while reducing your energy bills. It’s also worth checking with your local council for any grants that might be available to help with these costs.
- Check your paving or outside tiled areas and make sure water can drain away. In very cold weather, water on paving can freeze and could cause further damage or an accident.
- Check that any decking or new work in the garden hasn’t obstructed air bricks. Your home still needs a flow of air in and out during winter to prevent damp.
- Inspect the roof from ground level and replace any cracked tiles you see. Water and melting snow can seep in and damage the waterproof lining. Damp is a precursor to rot and mould, both of which are expensive to repair and eradicate. Loose tiles can also be a hazard in high winds and can cause damage to cars, windows or even people!
- Finally, check for any repairs needed on windows, external doors and sheds. Make sure water can run off and away from all these areas. Flat roofs are particularly prone to standing water and leaks.
- Be sure to have your boiler serviced and insulate any exposed pipes to protect from freezing and bursting. Being left with a flooded house or no heating and hot water mid-winter is a nightmare and expensive.
- Check your loft insulation is in good condition and up to current minimum standards of 270mm. You may be able to get a grant towards improving your insulation so it’s worth asking your local council. It’s important that the tanks and pipes in your loft do not freeze so don’t insulate below the tank – this allows residual heat from your house to keep them ice-free.
- Minimise draughts throughout your home. Though expensive, investing in double-glazing can cut heat loss via windows by 50%. However, consider fitting cheaper options such as secondary glazing or put polythene across the window frames during the winter months.
- Curtains can make a big difference to heat loss. Consider thermally insulated curtains for windows and outside doors.
- Stop draughts creeping in via your front door by fitting a cover to your letterbox and putting a sealant around the door frame.
- Ensure central heating pipework in the ventilated floor voids is insulated. Up to 70% of the heat input may be lost if not.
Remember, each house is different and your list may include additional winter protection jobs. If you live in an area prone to flooding, you need more specialist measures to protect your home. The most important thing is to be prepared by doing your repairs and insulating before the weather starts to get colder. Winter-proofing your house also means ensuring you have the appropriate levels of home insurance cover. Our Customer Service Team can help guide you through our policies to make sure we find the right level of cover for you and your home.
Now you can really look forward to roasting a few chestnuts and coming home to a lovely warm, dry house.
*While many of these simple tasks can be undertaken safely in the home, it is important that people seek the advice of reputable professionals when looking to complete larger jobs – roof work and boilers must be carried out by a trained professional.