How to Prepare your Home for Autumn/Winter
With Autumn around the corner, now is the perfect time to begin preparing your home against the adverse conditions of the colder weather, and to carry out some important maintenance which will help to protect your home (thereby preventing any future damage).
From October onwards, issues such as broken down boilers, frozen (and subsequently) burst water pipes and fallen trees tend to happen far more frequently than in the Spring and Summer months. In the winter of 2016, it is significant that Thames Water noted an increase of 26% in reported water pipe leaks (from April 2016 – April 2017).
What are the common Problems associated with the Home during this period?
The Danger of Fire
With the arrival of the colder weather, understandably, many people prefer to keep in the warmth of their homes, rather than to venture outside! Unfortunately, many items within the home which promote heat can cause dangerous situations, if they are not handled with great care. Items such as heaters and electric blankets may potentially cause fires.
In 2015/16, in England, it was reported that:
- 1,462 fires were caused by heating appliances
- 1,050 fires were caused by candles
A fitted smoke alarm is essential to help decrease the possibility of fires. In the case of let properties, Landlords are legally required to have smoke alarms fitted on each floor of their investment property.
There are many ways to reduce the likelihood of a fire within the home, in winter months:
- During celebratory periods, keep fireworks far away from the home
- Always switch off electric blankets; do not keep them on overnight, and be careful to switch them off whenever you are away from the home
- Place fire guards carefully over open fires
- Do not allow candles to stay burning for lengthy periods of time
- Take care not to place objects over heated appliances such as heaters.
Specific tips on preventing electric fires can be found here.
According to the Office of National Statistics, burglary has increased nationwide from last year (year ending March 2017), and since 2013, it has been found that domestic burglaries tend to peak in the winter months. Therefore, it is recommended to take additional security measures in winter, as this can reduce the risk of burglaries taking place. Kew Insurance covers personal possessions in and away from the home (for more information, please get in touch).
Tips on Preventing Theft from occurring within the home:
- Store all high value items (especially those over £1,500, which you may wish to declare under specified items) in a locked safe, or deposit such items in a bank/safety deposit box
- Every time you leave the house, take care to lock your doors and windows (making sure to double lock UPVC doors by turning the key and lifting the handle), even if you are just taking the rubbish out
- Ensure that all fences that surround your property are in good condition
- Make sure that any gates surrounding the property, or any alternative entrances, are locked at all times
- Remove all types of keys from clear sight
- Move any objects that could lead to a break in, i.e. ladders, tools, loose bricks, out of sight and away from the home
It may also be worthwhile to join a neighbourhood watch scheme.
Escape of Water
As mentioned above, the weather during the Autumn/Winter period can lead to water pipes becoming frozen, which will invariably cause them to burst. For this reason, it is essential to make sure all pipes within your home are fully lagged. Certain 'escape of water' incidents are covered under our “Simply Secure” home cover. For further information, please contact us here.
It is also a good idea to regularly check your central heating system because if this is found to be faulty, it may potentially void your claim. As previously mentioned, keeping your central heating on a low constant temperature will prevent your pipes from freezing. It is generally advised that heating within the home should be kept at a minimum of 12 degrees, or more, during the winter months -especially if you are leaving the home for any length of time.
Why does the risk of frozen/burst pipes increase after Autumn?
Water pipes tend to burst when the water contained within the pipes freezes (due to cold weather) and turns into ice. This ice causes the pipes to expand, pressuring the pipe, creating cracks, and eventually causing the pipes to burst. Please remember that any frozen pipes could leave your family without water and heat.
What are the signs of frozen pipes?
Typical signs of frozen pipes include:
- Frost accumulating on visible pipes (for example, pipes under the sink)
- Lack of water coming from the tap
- Strange smells coming from the drains surrounding pipes
To learn more, please refer to our Blog about burst pipes by clicking here.
Other Points to consider:
Gutters are used to guide rainwater which collects on top of the roof, in a downwards flow into the drain, stopping moisture/water from getting into the structure of your home. If this moisture infiltrates the surrounding areas of the gutter, moss or algae will appear, indicating that there is a problem with the guttering.
Gutters that are blocked or broken can prove to be to very dangerous, resulting in either structural damage or damp, which could affect your family's health (mould from the damp can trigger allergic reactions or cause asthma attacks). If your property is suffering from damp, before any course of action, it may be a good idea to check your gutters as leaking gutters have been found to be a common cause of damp in UK homes.
Leaks and other damage can occur when debris gets stuck in the joints, or from general wear and tear. Using a ladder, good preventative action includes:
- Clearing away any noticeable leaves and debris
- And, if clearing away any obstruction is proving to be difficult, try pouring a little water into the gutter and see if it the debris drains away
- If you suspect a blockage, when empty, very gently tap the pipes between any junctions or brackets. If the pipes sound solid, this could indicate a blockage
It may be worthwhile to replace any rusty or damaged guttering with a modern alternative to prevent further problems. In terms of repairing damage to gutters, it is recommended to call a professional contractor who will be able to advise you on solving the issue.
Frequent cleaning will prevent any problems from occurring and will pinpoint any issues. It is widely recommended to clear the gutters towards the end of autumn, once the leaves have fallen, as this is the time where the build-up of debris is more likely.
Signs of Cracking
Check all exterior walls of the property for signs of peeling or cracking as this may possibly create dampness in your home. Moreover, if there is any peeling or cracks in the paint of any exterior wood work, the wood would then be susceptible to frost and rain, which will cause the wood to rot. It should be noted that if there are signs of dampness, a professional contractor may be required to ensure a weatherproof finish.
Windows and Doors
It is important to check if any draughts can get through via the windows and doors. A well draught-proofed home will not only increase comfort for winter months but could also decrease your energy bill. Look out for our future blog which will examine a number of ways to keep out draughts within the home.
Loose tiles, often caused by storms, can prove to be dangerous and costly! Problems with the tiling can usually be spotted from ground level. However, if this is not possible, it may be a wise precaution to contact a professional roofing specialist.