‘Win­ter is com­ing’ is the motto of House Stark, and has be­come a favourite phrase among fans of TV se­ries Game of Thrones. How­ever, here in SA, far from Wes­teros, win­ter is al­ready in full swing. Here’s what you need to do to fight the forces of deep free

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f you fail to main­tain your home, your in­surer can de­cline a claim for dam­ages. For ex­am­ple, you should regularly have your roof gut­ters cleaned to re­move leaves and other de­bris, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the rainy sea­son. If you fail to do so and then put in an in­sur­ance claim when the gut­ter falls apart, your in­surer could de­cline the claim based on the fact that you should have pre­vented pre­dictable dam­age.

Rory Judd, MiWay’s head of online mar­ket­ing, pro­vides the fol­low­ing tips to beat win­ter’s pit­falls:

Get the fire­place ready

If you are lucky enough to have a fire­place, check for birds’ nests, any cracks or other dam­age. If you have a thatched roof, have the flash­ing checked. Us­ing a fire­place isn’t main­te­nance-free: the ashes from last year should be long gone, and you need to have the chim­ney pro­fes­sion­ally cleaned ev­ery sec­ond year. Buy wood early be­cause prices tend to go up when tem­per­a­tures go down and de­mand in­creases.

Cut out the draught

Keep­ing the house warm is much more dif­fi­cult if the heat is leak­ing out. Make sure all your win­dows close and are sealed prop­erly to keep the warmth in. Check for any cracks around frames and fill them in with wall filler. Con­sider us­ing un­der-door draught stop­pers, also known as “door snakes”, to pre­vent the wind from sneak­ing in through the crack.

Main­tain heaters and heat­ing sys­tems

Be sure your heat­ing sys­tems are ready to weather the win­ter. Have a pro­fes­sional check your airconditioning sys­tem and en­sure it’s in good work­ing or­der be­fore you turn it on. Sched­ule checks for your heater and chim­ney. Con­sider a gas heater to help cope with load shed­ding and save on elec­tric­ity costs.

Pad your pipes

If you live in a colder part of the coun­try where be­low-zero tem­per­a­tures are com­mon, you face the ad­di­tional risk of a small, frozen pipe that could po­ten­tially cause big house­hold dam­age if it bursts. Stop this from hap­pen­ing by pad­ding your pipes to pre­vent them from burst­ing. Grab some tubu­lar pipe in­su­la­tion sleeves from your lo­cal hard­ware store and cover ex­posed pipes in un­heated ar­eas. The pipe sleeves are easy to ap­ply and can be cut to fit. Cover all ex­posed parts, in­clud­ing bends and joints. Fi­nally, seal the seams with duct tape. With that sim­ple task, you’re not only pre­vent­ing con­sid­er­able wa­ter dam­age, but con­serv­ing energy.

In­su­late your geyser

Another good idea is to in­vest in a geyser blan­ket. By in­su­lat­ing the geyser against nor­mal heat loss through the steel casing, the geyser keeps the hot wa­ter hot for longer – mean­ing it does not need to be switched on as of­ten. Un­less in­su­lated, geyser wa­ter tem­per­a­ture can drop by 1°C an hour, so con­stant energy is needed to main­tain tem­per­a­ture. A geyser blan­ket can cut energy use by half, sav­ing elec­tric­ity and hun­dreds of rands ev­ery month. You should also in­su­late the wa­ter pipes lead­ing from the geyser for the first 3m.

Clean out the garage

Like your tra­di­tional spring clean, con­sider sched­ul­ing a tra­di­tional “au­tumn clean” of your garage. Or­gan­ise the re­mains of your sum­mer projects and clean and store gar­den­ing tools. Push what you won’t be need­ing – the lawn­mower, hedge trim­mer, rakes and sum­mer toys – to the back and bring any win­ter ne­ces­si­ties to the front.

Roof main­te­nance

Gari Dombo, MD of Alexan­der Forbes In­sur­ance, points out that, un­less you live in the Western Cape, you can ex­pect a dry win­ter. This is a great time to check your roof for leaks or other dam­age and carry out any re­pairs.

You should regularly clear your gut­ters of leaves, twigs and other de­bris. Heavy rains and an over­flow­ing gut­ter can lead to a leaky roof. Clogged gut­ters also cause rain­wa­ter to pool. Check the down­pipes too and make sure the rain has some­where to go. Large pools of wa­ter gath­er­ing on the ground can cause ris­ing damp or even dam­age the foun­da­tion of your home.


Take ad­van­tage of the dry weather to damp-proof your home. Damp­ness can be caused by rain, flood­ing or poor drainage. If left unchecked, it can cause sev­eral prob­lems, in­clud­ing musty in­te­ri­ors, peel­ing paint and swollen wooden doors and win­dow frames.

Fire risk

Ac­cord­ing to Alexan­der Forbes In­sur­ance, there is a def­i­nite in­crease in fire-re­lated dam­age dur­ing win­ter months. Dombo says that even if you don’t have fire ex­tin­guish­ers or smoke de­tec­tors in your home, there are sev­eral steps you can take to min­imise fire risks.

Use a screen in front of your fire­place to stop sparks from es­cap­ing.

Check the cord of your elec­tric blan­ket to make sure it is not frayed. Get rid of elec­tric heaters with dam­aged cords. En­sure there is a safe dis­tance be­tween your heaters, cur­tains and other fur­ni­ture. Never put an elec­tric heater in the bath­room. Have a des­ig­nated safe place that is well out of the reach of chil­dren to store matches, fire­lighters and other flammable equip­ment.

Keep lit can­dles out of the reach of chil­dren and away from soft fur­nish­ings. Make sure all can­dles are ex­tin­guished be­fore you go to sleep.

Check your in­door gas heater and re­place worn or per­ished seals.

Make sure fixed gas ap­pli­ances are regularly ser­viced and main­tained in ac­cor­dance with gas reg­u­la­tions.

It is also a good idea to de­velop a home es­cape plan that you should re­hearse with your chil­dren.

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