How to Prepare your Home for the Winter Months

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frozen burst pipe

Hold on to your hats as the recent terrible flooding we’ve seen might only be the start of one of the harshest winters ever experienced in the UK.

If forecasts in the press are correct, Britain could be facing the coldest December and January for 100 years.

Whether the reports prove accurate or not, winter always hits homes hard, causing major problems from burst pipes to broken boilers.

But with a bit of effort, you could prepare your home and prevent damage occurring. Here’s how.

Top tip:
Get your boiler serviced, if you haven’t already. Being without hot water in winter is a painful experience, and a service will give you a good idea of the state of your pipes too.

Pipes and insulation:

• Ensure pipes in unheated areas, such as lofts and garages, are insulated (use waterproof lagging in outside areas).
• Check for draughts and seal any gaps around doors and windows.
• Place lagging around your cold water tank.
• Consider proper loft insulation if you don’t have any. For advice, call the not-for-profit Energy Saving Trust on 0300 123 1234.
• Set the thermostat to a minimum 14 degrees and keep all radiators on.
• Turn off the water supply to outside taps, if you’re able to.
• If you go away for more than a week, consider draining the heating system.
• Move any loft hatch doors aside a little to allow warmer air to circulate on the coldest days and nights.

If your pipes freeze:
• Turn off the water at the stopcock (make sure you know where this is!), leave taps open and drain the system.
• Use only very low heat on frozen pipes to thaw them out. A naked flame, such as a blowtorch, can cause considerable damage.
• Warm towels, hot water bottles or hairdryers can all be used to thaw pipes.
• Start at the nearest end to the tap.
• Look for leaks and place items under to collect water.

Boilers:

• Never assume your boiler is working well. Always get it checked, preferably in late summer just before you turn the heating on again by a qualified plumber.
• Check the pressure gauge on your boiler regularly. Generally the indicator should be between 1 and 2 bars.
• To top up the pressure if it’s too low, turn the cold water valve tap on, watch the gauge rise, then close it off.
• If the pressure falls below 1 bar, the boiler can stop working and possibly be damaged.
• Boilers will lose pressure slowly over time. If it’s happening quickly, there’s something wrong and you should get the boiler checked.

Your home’s exterior, roof and garden:

• Check your roof for cracked or missing tiles, which could cause leaks or fly off in gales.
• Take a close look at your chimney pot, aerial and satellite dish. If anything looks loose, fix it now.
• Check window frames and fill any gaps with sealant and consider a coat of protective paint. Gaps let water in and frames can crack if freezing occurs.
• Put away any garden furniture and tools to avoid damage to them.
• Drain the petrol from your lawn mower and oil any power tools; they’ll function all the more smoothly for it come the spring.
• Clear gutters of leaves, stones and other debris to prevent them from blocking, overflowing and freezing.
• Trim back trees as flying branches and twigs in high winds can ruin tiles and smash windows.

Prepare a winter weather home emergency kit

Place a radiator key, screwdriver, pliers, insulation tape, a torch, candles, matches and spare fuses in a bag and place it somewhere quickly accessible. Include reminder instructions of where your water stopcock and mains gas taps are, and the procedure of what to do if you have frozen pipes or leaks.
Also include emergency numbers such as a decent plumber and your insurer’s emergency helpline number (most have one these days).

Check your insurance covers you

Your home insurance policy may or may not cover you for flooding, frozen pipes and other cold weather damage, depending on the policy type and level of cover you’ve chosen. It’s most definitely worth checking.

You never know when a burst pipe or heating breakdown will occur so emergency cover may be useful for you and give you have the peace of mind that help is at hand.

Policy Expert

We’re driven by a desire to help you find not only the best value insurance, but the right insurance for your individual needs. For more information speak to one of our experts on 0203 014 9300 or email ask@policyexpert.co.uk

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Policy Expert.