Storms and floods have become a common occurrence in recent winters. While there’s not a lot you can do in the face of extreme weather, preparing your home for the colder months can save you time, and money, in the long run. To help you get your property ready here are our top winter tips for homeowners, landlords and tenants.
As winter approaches it’s important to make sure your home is well maintained. Things to think about include:
Knowing where the stopcock is
If a pipe bursts or you have a serious leak you’ll need to cut off the water supply via the stopcock.
Stopcocks are usually underneath the kitchen sink, in a utility room, bathroom or in the cupboard under the stairs. If you’ve got a cellar or plant room (boiler room) it could also be there.
Ensuring chimneys are swept
Debris can create a fire hazard so if your home or rental has a working chimney you should have it swept at least once a year.
Bear in mind that properly maintaining a working chimney may be a condition of your home insurance. If it’s found to be the cause of an accident and it hasn’t been maintained, your insurer could refuse to pay out.
There are no licensing laws for chimney sweeps so it would be a good idea to find an expert from the National Association of Chimney Sweeps or member organisation, the Association of Professional Independent Chimney Sweeps (APICS).
Properly ventilating your property
It’s crucial to ensure your property is well ventilated to minimise condensation and mould.
Precautions include extractor fans in bathrooms and kitchens, and keeping windows open a fraction if condensation is a problem.
Drying laundry indoors can lead to excess moisture in the air, so if you don’t have a tumble dryer you can reduce the effects by opening windows.
You could also put dehumidifiers in problem areas (like basement rooms), which can also help absorb excess moisture.
Draught proofing windows and doors
Making sure your property retains as much heat as possible by draught proofing windows and doors can help you save on your energy bills.
Outdoor winter home maintenance should start before the worst of the winter weather sets in. Tasks best done over the autumn months include:
Insulating outdoor pipes
Lagging pipes cuts the risk of them freezing and then bursting. It’s also worth insulating pipes in colder areas inside the house, such as cellars and boiler rooms.
Clearing gutters, paths and steps
Regularly sweeping away leaves and other debris can save you from blocked gutters which could lead to damp seeping into your property.
Insurers can reject claims for water damage caused by poorly maintained gutters as damage could have been prevented through proper maintenance.
Clearing paths, walkways and steps can help prevent accidents and lower the risk of liability claims.
Securing sheds, garages and outbuildings
Windows and doors should be lockable and valuable tools and garden equipment kept out of sight to reduce the chance of opportunistic theft.
Most insurers will expect sheds and outbuildings to be properly maintained as part of their policy conditions, so it is important to include these in your maintenance checks.
Checking roof tiles
Water damage in the loft can go unnoticed until it becomes a serious issue. You can pre-empt problems by having a professional maintenance firm check roof tiles and flashing for cracks and damage.
In the depths of winter, lack of heating is the last problem you’ll want to deal with. These simple checks should ensure your home stays warm and problem free.
Fill up the oil tank
If your home runs on oil, check levels and, if necessary, fill up at the earliest opportunity.
You can also save money by joining a local oil buying group. Villages often have their own groups which enables you to benefit from bulk pricing.
Bleeding your radiators at least once a year ensures your home is heated as efficiently as possible and can save you money on your energy bills.
Service your boiler
Regular boiler servicing can help you identify minor problems early on and save you from boiler breakdowns and a costly bill. If you have boiler breakdown cover, having it serviced every 12 months may be something you have to do under your policy’s terms.
If you’re a landlord it’s your responsibility to ensure the boiler is regularly maintained. Your property’s overall energy efficiency will also need to be recorded on an EPC certificate, which you’ll need to arrange every ten years and update as necessary.
Whether you’re a homeowner or landlord with an empty property, darker evenings mean home security should be a priority – precautions include:
Checking outside lights work
Motion sensor lights are relatively inexpensive but can deter thieves and prevent break-ins.
For added security, think about installing CCTV or using a wi-fi operated camera solution.
Setting up timers for lights and heating
Properties that look lived-in are less likely to attract opportunist thieves. Put internal lights on timers and vary the times they switch on and off.
Putting heating on a timer or maintaining constant, low temperatures in empty properties can help prevent internal pipes from freezing and bursting.
Taking out unoccupied property insurance
Whether you’re a landlord or homeowner, don’t forget that there are limits to how long your property can be empty for; typically, this is up to 60 days.
Check and update your home or landlord insurance
Whether you’re a homeowner or landlord, we can help you find the cover you need to ensure peace of mind no matter what the time of year. For advice and guidance, head to our home or landlord insurance hub or speak to a member of the team on 01603 218099.