Getting your home ready for winter will pay off
The first frosts of the season arrived in Yorkshire this week and they herald a winter warning for homeowners. Sharon Dale reports.
BE prepared is a motto all homeowners should abide by at this time of year. The winter solstice, on December 21, may be weeks away, but the first frosts have bitten and insurers are bracing themselves for the seasonal rush of claims.
Burst pipes, wrecked roof tiles and collapsed gutters are among the most common causes of damage brought by severe weather, though insurance companies may not pay out if they feel a lack of general maintenance is partly to blame.
That’s not the only reason why you should “winterise” your home.
TV presenter Jules Hudson is leading this year’s SPAB, Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, National Maintenance Week campaign and says: “From personal experience I know how costly it can be when a building hasn’t been properly maintained and I’m not referring to difficult or complex work. Something as simple as fixing a couple of broken roof tiles or mending damaged guttering could prevent a relatively minor problem from escalating into a major, expensive repair job.”
He adds: “I am constantly amazed at the amount of time, pride and effort people put into looking after their cars, when they seem happy to ignore ongoing problems around a building. Really, it boils down to the same thing. A building needs a maintenance MOT. The bottom line is that if you deal with a small, niggly issue early on it’s usually simpler and cheaper to put right. The longer you leave something the more damage is done. Don’t put it off.”
Here are some seasonal maintenance tips:
According to a recent Axa survey, 59 per cent of homeowners hadn’t checked their gutters for three years and 24 per cent had never cleared their gutters at all. Blocked guttering can lead to overflows, damp and damage to a building. November is the time to start trouble shooting as this is when they become blocked by autumn leaf fall and debris like twigs and old bird nests. If leaves are a big problem you can fit mesh gutter guards, which are easy to install – check out YouTube for how to videos. Have gutters re-fixed if they are sloping the wrong way or discharging water onto the wall
Check drainpipes by tapping. If there is a blockage, you will hear a muffled sound. You can also look for tell-tale stained brickwork behind the pipe and check during heavy rainfall to see if water is leaking from joints. Use a hand mirror to look behind them as splits and cracks in old cast iron and aluminium often occur here and are not easily noticed.
Examine your roof. Look for broken and loose tiles, cracks in the chimney and remove any vegetation growing on tiles, around the chimney as this will allow frost to penetrate. The Axa report revealed 31 per cent of homeowners hadn’t checked the state of their roofs in five years and 11 per cent have never checked their roofs, yet even a relatively small gap can let in damaging amounts of water.
It’s much easier and cheaper to have a tile fixed than replace trusses rotted through years of neglect. You can check your roof from the inside, looking for chinks of daylight in the attic. Outside, you might find that using a pair of binoculars helps you get a clear view of potential problem points. Or call a reputable roofer to inspect it for you.
Check for cracks in your walls and damaged pointing. If water gets in and freezes, it will expand and enlarge the crack causing further damage and damp. Fill with mortar or waterproof Polyfilla.
Looking after wood windows is vital. It’s a good idea to wash down the paintwork. This not only prolongs the life of the finish, it gives a good opportunity to check for decay.
Vegetation growing on or near a house needs monitoring. Cut back any low hanging branches that might cause damage in high winds.
Inside the property, ensure that cold water tanks, pipes in the loft and unheated spaces are lagged to prevent freezing. You can do this yourself by insulating the sides of the tank with an insulation quilt. Don’t insulate underneath as this area benefits from warm air rising from the floor of the loft.
Have your boiler checked and serviced ready for the inevitable cold snaps. One of the biggest issues for homeowners is boilers breaking down in freezing weather.
Insulate and draught proof wherever possible. The main culprits for draughts are doors, keyholes and windows. Keyhole and letter box covers can be found at hardware and DIY stores and you can buy foam, plastic or metal stripe to make window frames airtight. .
If you don’t use your fireplace, your chimney is probably a source of unnecessary draughts. You can fit a cap over the chimney pot or buy a chimney draught excluder.
For more useful information visit the Energy Saving Trust website on www. energysavingtrust.org.uk
National Maintenance Week starts on November 22. For more tips from SPAB visit www. maintainyourbuilding.org.uk