Now is the time to get your home ready for winter

Autumn, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, is upon us but as those of us who scraped thick ice off our car windscreens a couple of weeks ago will testify, wintry weather can strike at any time from October onwards.The worst of it tends to blow in from December 1, the beginning of Meteorological winter, which means now is the time to batten down the hatches and make sure that your home is ready to withstand rain, snow, ice and high humidity..Here are some tips on how to get your home ready for winter.*Check your gutters or get a professional to check them for you. Autumn is the time when they get full of silt, leaves, twigs and roof moss. Blocked gutters can lead to overflow, damp and damage to a building. The debris can also cause blockages in downpipes and underground drainage systems.If you live in an area where leaves are a 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. Gutter brushes - the best-known is the Hedgehog brush - are also very useful for guarding against leaves. They are about four metres in length, cost about £14 each and 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. You can also 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.

Catch up with maintenance jobs before the snow falls. Picture by James Hardisty

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*A cracked, broken roof tile and crumbling chimneys can cause a lot of damage to a property in the cold, wet months. If you see any damage or suspect it, then get reputable roofer to check and repair it. Be careful as there are plenty of cowboy roofers out there. Word of mouth is often the best way of finding a good one.*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.*Condensation indoors is one of the worst winter issues. This can lead to black mould on walls and other surfaces. This can also cause wooden window frames to rot, stain walls and it is very bad for your health.Humidity problems in the home get worse in winter when the heating is on and we close doors and windows. This reduces air circulation, causing moisture to become trapped. 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 will make the situation worse.Signs of high humidity 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’ on 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.*Boiler problems peak at this time of year. Make sure your boiler is in good condition. You should have it serviced every year by a Gas Safe registered plumber.*More house fires occur in December and January than in any other months of the year, according to insurers, 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 have the chimney swept to minimise the risk of fire. 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. Also invest in a carbon monoxide alarm.*Check your pipes. Izzy Schulman, Director or Plumbers4U, says: “Winter is when you’re most at risk of burst water pipes but 75 percent of homeowners don’t know even know if their pipes are properly insulated so check them. The best way to insulate by using lagging, which you can get inexpensively from any plumbing merchant. Make sure you have the name and number of a qualified plumber and boiler engineer to hand so you can call them straight away in an emergency.”

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