Extremes of winter weather, and the flooding which can follow, can create a real and structural damage to your property. Home owners affected can lose valuable possessions and personal items, as well as having to cope with the inconvenience and stress of the situation. Then there’s claiming on the buildings insurance and dealing with the insurance company – only to find that your actions or inactions may have caused the issues and you could be liable for some, if not all of the repairs.
If you are going away, or at home, you are responsible for ensuring that your property is protected from the cold weather.
Some things you can do to protect your property this winter
1. Check the lagging in your loft- around your water pipes and cold water storage tank. Even small gaps in the lagging could be big enough to let in cold air and freeze the pipe, or even the water in the water tank. Where there are pipes in the attic, eaves and cupboards, these are typically more exposed and are prone to freezing.
2. Keep your central heating on permanently at a minimum temperature of 15⁰C (or 60⁰F) is a wise precaution to guard against damp and condensation. Having thermostatic valves fitted on the radiators will enable you to set the valves so that when the temperature drops below a certain level (most have a ‘frost’ setting), the radiator, to which the valve is attached will come on. Thermostatic valves will enable you to keep the heating on low without having to heat the entire house, all of the time.
3. Make sure that your pipes are lagged. This will,along with leaving your central heating on low permanently (even if you are not in the house), will guard against frozen pipes.
4. When going away, asks somebody to check your home - The main cause for pipes to burst is when they freeze up, and after the warm weather thaws the pipes burst, and if this is not noticed early enough water damage to the fabric of the property may occur due to leaking pipes.
5. Seal the holes in the walls. Where ever a cable or phone line comes through the exterior wall, you should check to make sure that the hole is adequately sealed to stop cold air from getting in or warm air from escaping.
6. Leave at least one cold tap dripping slightly on each floor of your house when leaving the house unoccupied for a period of time (when for example you are going on holiday). Even the slowest of drips can reduce the risk of water freezing significantly inside your pipes (This action may only be taken if you have cold water storage tanks, and you are not draining down the water system but leaving the central heating switched on).
7. Leave bathroom cabinet doors and kitchen cupboards open – this will allow warm air to reach hidden pipes.
8.Leave the doors within the house open – This is particularly important if you are going away. This will enable heat to circulate around the house.
9. Leave the loft hatch open - It is important that warm air is allowed to circulate around your house as much as possible so leaving the loft hatch open is a good idea.
10. Make sure that you know where the water stop clock is - Find your mains water stop clock, once you have found it be sure it is easy to turn off and accessible. In an emergency it is important it is easy to turn off, or if it is difficult to turn off get it checked by a qualified plumber.
11. Drain your water system - If you are going away for long periods of time drain your water system. It’s important, when draining your water system, to drain the water storage tanks (hot and cold tanks) as well as from radiators and central heating pipes.
12. Insulate the overflow pipe from the boiler - Condensing boilers are well known for their fuel efficiency, but in winter there is a risk of their overflow pipe freezing up and causing damage to your property.
This can be avoided by getting a boiler with a Siphon trap which releases the water in one amount thus reducing the risk of freezing. Other ways of guarding against a frozen overflow pipe is to insulate the pipe or simply shorten the pipe so that there is not so much of the pipe exposed to the outside.
13. Make sure that your house insurance policy is up to date - Check you are covered for winter related damage. In an emergency if you have a leaking roof that needs to be repaired before there is further damage to your home, it’s important to have an appropriate policy that can give approval for the work to be done as soon as possible before more damage can be done to your home.