By getting on top of them sooner rather than later, not only can you reduce the risk of problems but potentially save money too. Here’s how to prep your home for winter.
By Louisa Fletcher, Property Expert
1. Inspect your roof
Let’s start by talking about your roof. It only takes one loose, cracked or broken tile to allow for water ingress (when water gets into your home) in heavy rain, or for any melting snow to penetrate vulnerable areas.
If it’s a flat roof, then depending on how recently it was installed, the bitumen covering can blister, crack and lose its integrity – particularly over the hot summer months. Plus the layers of protective membrane can degenerate over time, creating an opportunity for water to find its way in.
If you suspect any areas of your roof need attention, it makes sense to have it professionally inspected sooner rather than later. By taking steps now, you can rectify any minor issues before they become a major – and more expensive – problem later on. Many insurance policies will only accept a claim for weather damage if the property was in reasonable condition at the time the incident occurred.
If you get a builder to work on your roof, make sure they offer a warranty on their work and the materials they use, which is independent and in addition to the company’s own written guarantee. Most reputable and professional firms will offer this, but it’s best to check.
2. Clear gutters and downpipes
Rainwater goods, like gutters and downpipes, are also a common cause of water ingress issues yet often overlooked. Blockages from leaves and plants are both major contributors to overflowing guttering and downpipes during heavy rain and storms.
Left unchecked, obstructed pipes can allow water to flow into the soffits, eaves and fascia around your home. Not to mention creating seepage through any cracks in your pointing or masonry. Keeping them regularly cleared of debris throughout the winter months can significantly help to prevent any deluge.
Many professional property maintenance companies recommend that you check and clear gutters at least twice throughout the winter. Once directly after autumn when leaf-fall is most evident, and once in late January to ensure that you’ve removed any other debris collected as a result of wind and heavy weather.
It’s easy to keep on top of any gullies at ground level, but unclogging guttering at height is probably a job for the professionals. A few pounds spent now could save a lot of stress and financial strife later.
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If you suffer from water ingress, your insurance claim may be rejected if it’s decided that the issue was caused by a blockage caused by lack of basic maintenance.
3. Eliminate trip hazards
While you're outside, check for trip hazards. Common problem areas are driveways, garden paths, patios and decking. During the colder months, it’s not very easy to spot loose paving slabs or slippery decking that may cause a tumble, which is then worsened by a covering of ice or snow.
4. Check the central heating
Turning to inside your home, around October many people turn their central heating back on. However, if your boiler is a little older and hasn’t been used much all summer, the sudden pressure on the system to heat radiators regularly can create issues, resulting in failure.
By arranging your annual boiler service and safety check in October, you’ve got time for any repairs to be carried out before winter sets in.
Keeping up that all-important annual boiler service means that you'll hopefully be able to avoid any major mishaps when the mercury plummets, and also a lot of aggravation.
It’s generally much harder to find a Gas Safe engineer in cold weather. Why? Because that’s when everyone else needs them. Then there are the emergency call-out fees to consider too…
Find a local Gas Safe engineer via the national register. You might also like to consider taking out a Home Emergency Policy to ensure that you’re covered should the worst happen. Some insurers, including us, offer these as an optional extra to home insurance policies.
5. Insulate water pipes
Last but by no means least, check your water supply pipes and insulate them where necessary. When the temperature drops, water can freeze inside the pipes, which can then expand and create pressure, causing the pipes to burst and flood your home.
You can avoid this scenario by making sure that any water supply pipes around your property exposed either to exterior walls or unheated spaces are insulated. Well-insulated pipes can make your home more energy-efficient, potentially saving money on your bills, as well as reducing the risk of any water-related dramas.
Key areas of pipework to check are in your loft or those which are situated outside. If you have a hot water tank, check that both the tank and lagging pipes are well insulated as well as any gaps where pipes penetrate the walls.
Not confident about checking pipes yourself? You may prefer to take professional advice from a qualified plumber. Aside from personal recommendations, it might be helpful to check WaterSafe which is a free service, funded by the water industry, to help consumers find qualified plumbers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland via their online register.
The good news is, the sooner you can tick all your winter prep jobs off the list, the sooner you can start work on other important tasks. Such as building the bonfire ready for Guy Fawkes night or (whisper it) working out where the Christmas decorations are… in which case, enjoy!