Get your home ready for winter

The first frosts herald a winter warning to homeowners. Sharon Dale reports on how to get your home ready for the weather.

Get your home ready for winter

It is notoriously difficult to predict the weather but some experts are predicting a harsh winter with the Met Office’s long-range forecast saying that snow is possible over high ground between November 20 and December 4.

Whatever happens over the next few months, it is bound to get wet and windy with some snow and ice, which means homeowners need to be prepared.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Insurers are bracing themselves for a seasonal rush of claims. Burst pipes, collapsed gutters and damaged roof tiles are among the most common causes of damage due to bad weather.

Some may not pay out if they feel the cause is poor maintenance. Check your buildings insurance policy and read the small print to to see what is and isn’t covered

Here are some tips on how to get your home ready for winter.

*Check your gutters check or get a professional to check them for you. This is the time of year when they get full of leaves, twigs, birds’ nests, roof moss and silt. Blocked gutters can lead to overflow, damp and damage to a building. The debris can also cause blockages in downpipes and underground drainage system.

If leaves are a big problem then you can have the gutters covered with a mesh guard but make sure it is good quality and secured properly or it can collapse. Brushes get better reviews. The best known is the Hedgehog gutter brush. Each brush is four metres in length and brush quantities of 5, 10 or 20 are available. They come in different widths and prices start from £66.25 for five 100mm wide hedgehogs. They are easy to install but roofing experts advise that you tie them to the gutter with cable ties as strong winds can lift them out.

Fit bird/leaf guards to the tops of soil pipes and rainwater outlets to prevent blockages.

*Check for blocked downpipes and leaky gutters. This is best done during heavy rain when you can see water coming from leaky joints, although in dry weather you should look for stained brick/stonework. You can also tap them and if they are blocked, you will hear a muffled sound.

*Examine your roof and look for cracked or broken tiles. Do not undertake routine maintenance work at high level unless you are accompanied and have suitable equipment. If in doubt always seek help from a professional. Do your homework and find a reputable roofer/maintenance person as there are plenty of “cowboys” who profess to be experts.

*Store outdoor furniture and other items, such as plant pots, in the garage or shed. Anything that can be blown about by strong winds could cause damage to your home or to a neighbouring property.

*Inside the house, condensation is one of the worst winter issues. Left unchecked, this can lead to the dreaded black mould on walls and other surfaces. It can also cause wooden window frames to rot.

Humidity problems in the home are caused by excess moisture in the air, leaking pipes, rising damp, moisture in construction materials, faulty seals on door or window frames, inadequate ventilation, high rainfall, and everyday household activities such as cooking, running baths and drying laundry on radiators.

“Many of us live with too much humidity in the winter months as we turn heating on and close doors and windows, which reduces air circulation, causing moisture to become trapped indoors,” says Sally Fok of Eco Air, which specialises in dehumidifiers.

Optimum indoor humidity levels are between 40-60 per cent. Any higher can be damaging to our homes and our health. Watch out for the signs of high humidity, which are: condensation, appearance of mould or mildew, rotting wood or peeling paint, musty odours, yellowish-brown water stains or fluffy white salt deposits on walls, ‘tide-lines’ along the bottom of basement or ground floor walls, allergic reactions, asthma attacks, respiratory problems or skin infections.

Open windows and use vent fans every time you are cooking and after taking a shower or bath. Allowing the air to circulate is a quick way to release trapped humidity.

If you are still struggling to control high humidity then use a dehumidifier. The new versions are small and energy-efficient. *Make sure your boiler is in good condition. You should have it serviced every year. Also make sure you bleed your radiators if they are colder at the top than the bottom.

*Insurers say that more house fires occur in December and January than in any other months of the year so make sure you install smoke alarms on each floor of the house and test the batteries regularly.

If you have an open fire or wood-burning stove, you need to hire a employ a professional to sweep the chimney or you risk a chimney fire, which can be disastrous. If you only use the fire/stove in the evenings and weekends then once a year should be enough. If you use it more than that, you should have it swept once before you start using it again after summer and then again half-way through the burning season.