Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Recommended winter home maintenance checks

Winter may be beautiful, with cold crisp mornings and glittering icy cobwebs, but it’s also quite hardwearing on your home.

By carrying out a ‘winter MOT’ on your property, you reduce the risk of a disaster ruining your plans and damaging your belongings, and the risk of costly repairs or making a claim on your insurance.

So what should you do? Here are some useful checks for getting your home ready for winter:


Be ready

Houses in the snow

If you make a list of emergency numbers then you won’t be left panicking in a crisis. Include official weather helplines, your insurer’s emergency contact details and the numbers of nearby friends and relatives who might come and help.

At the same time, you could make an emergency kit, especially if you know you’re at risk of extreme weather. This should include important documents, such as insurance papers, passports and birth certificates. A torch, a battery-powered radio, and spare batteries will help in a power cut. Also, any items you might need but would struggle to replace in a hurry like contact lenses, medication and baby supplies.

Have a list of trusted professionals ready so you have contacts in a plumbing or electrical emergency. Make sure to get references and check tradespeople’s certificates, ideally in advance.


Inside your home

The last thing you want is for your boiler to break down just as the cold weather hits. But the extra demands we place on our heating this time of year make trouble even more likely, so arrange for your boiler to be serviced at least once a year by a Gas Safe registered plumber.

Check the pipes in the loft are properly lagged and keep the central heating set to at least 10 degrees. Make sure it turns on for at least an hour a day if you’re going away, but if the weather is really cold then you might want to increase that.

If you don’t already know then find out where your stopcock is so that you can turn it off in an emergency.


Outside your house

Keeping a close eye on the exterior of your home can help you spot problems before they become a crisis. Check the condition of your roof at the start of the cold weather and then watch out for any changes during harsh conditions.

You’re looking for broken or missing tiles, cracks appearing in the chimney or issues with the pointing. If in doubt, get a professional out to look at it. Cold and windy weather is not necessarily the best time for ladder-top DIY.

Make sure there’s nothing outside that might rip free in the wind or damage your property – pack any garden furniture or toys away into the garage and cut back any branches that could cause damage to your home or your neighbours’ if they were buffeted in winter storms.

It’s also useful to check the fastens on your sheds and garden gates, so they don’t come loose and bang or break in stormy nights.


Get ready for a flood

Sadly, in the UK we’re more likely to experience torrential rain than a festive sprinkling of snow. If you’re in an area that’s at risk of flooding (you can double check this using the Environment Agency’s dedicated tool) then it’s worth taking a few precautions.

Put together some emergency supplies, including sandbags and your insurance details. Form a plan for quickly moving valuable or precious items upstairs, so that if there’s time and it’s safe then you can move them out of the water’s path.

Ring FloodLine for extra advice – the number is 0345 988 1188. You can also get lots of advice on preparing for or dealing with flooding via the National Flood Forum.

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