Freezing temperatures outside can wreak havoc on your home - here's how to make sure you're all sorted in time for the big chill
The weather has changed, and it seems to be cooler every morning. Before winter is established in earnest, what can we do to ensure our houses are as well prepared as possible. Here are five ways you can ensure that your home and garden are well prepared for this year’s storms:
1. Tidy up outside
High winds picking up loose objects and blowing them into houses or cars can cause a lot of damage. If you have left garden furniture outside, now might be a good time to tie it down and put it under a well-secured cover. Empty plant pots, loose fence panels, children’s play equipment should all be put away securely to avoid damage.
Whilst you are tidying, recognise things that are fine in the light and when its dry, but when there is less light, and it is wet become obstacles. Wet leaves can be ridiculously slippery, so don’t leave them lying on your paths. Small litter like crisp packets can cause you to lose your footing if you stand on them when it’s wet or icy.
2. Batten down the hatches
If you are at risk from flooding, consider whether it might be worth taking extra precautions. This may be as simple of making sure you have sandbags ready. You could invest in non-return valves on drains and pipes, and airbrick covers. If you do use airbrick covers whilst there is a risk of flooding, make sure to remove them afterwards so the air bricks can continue to function and prevent a damp problem.
Not sure of the flood risk for your property? https://flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk/long-term-flood-risk lets you check the surface flooding risk for your postcode.
Make sure drains are not clogged. It might seem a nuisance, but it is far quicker to clear the dead leaves from your drains and your gutters now than to have to mop up water later. Next time it is raining heavily, grab a coat and head outside and see if you can spot any leaks in the guttering, or water running down in places it shouldn’t be.
Check that any flat roofs are in good condition, as with expansion and contraction small tears can worsen when the weather deteriorates. Older flat roofs and shed roofs can become brittle when they have been exposed to too many cycles of hot and then cold weather, so check for any signs of cracking. Stand back from the house and look at your roof tiles. If you notice misaligned or loose tiles get them fixed now before they fall, and your roof is exposed. It is much easier to get small repairs done before the weather deteriorates further and working conditions worsen.
3. Insulate, inside and out
Loft insulation makes a big difference in cold weather. If you have been into the loft and reorganised, check you haven’t disturbed the insulation, it might just need pushing back into place.
Check your letterbox still closes properly without leaving a gap and see whether you can improve the draft proofing around your cat flap. If you have chimneys that you are not using, even a simple board tacked across the opening in the fireplace will make a big difference to the heat escaping.
Make sure doors fit well, if they don’t, draft excluders can provide a quick and cost-effective solution. Similarly check round windows and window frames for gaps that need filling.
If you have water pipes that run outside, lag them to stop them freezing. Frozen pipes can otherwise prevent water from dripping taps draining away which might cause damage inside.
Without going overboard, keep enough basic supplies so that if you can’t or just would rather not go out to the shops for a week you have enough food, drink, and medicines.
It is also good to know where a torch is. It is never easy to locate it in the back of the cupboard under the sink at 2am in the dark. Keep a list of key contact details for your plumber, electrician, insurer so that if there is an emergency you can contact them easily.
Do make sure house insurance is in place and adequate. All of us hope we won’t need it, but insurance is your backstop against the unexpected and the unfortunate. It is a specialised area and policies often include specialist jargon. If you are not sure exactly what you are covered for, ask the insurer or the broker. Don’t just assume you’ll be covered and try and work it all out in an emergency.