We know what it’s like, it’s easy to forget about the not-so-glamorous task of making your home winter-ready and tempting to just get to it later. But then suddenly it is later, and before you know it there’s a blizzard blowing outside, a burst pipe in the attic and you’re cooking Christmas dinner in a foot of water. Not to mention shelling out for the repairs on Boxing Day.
So instead of waiting for the worst to happen, why not take these simple measures to protect your home now? Just a few little chores could prevent major problems from developing.
Clean your gutters
Clogged gutters can make an ‘ice dam’ more likely to form, which in turn can trap water on your roof. So clear out all those leaves now and save yourself the hassle of leaks later.
Tidy the garden
Before the weather gets really chilly, cut back any overgrown trees and bushes near the house, and remove any plants climbing on your outside walls – these can act like a sponge in rainy weather, and all that heavy, wet foliage can cause damage to your paintwork and bricks.
Insulate your pipes
A burst pipe, caused by frozen water expanding inside the pipe, is one of the most annoying and potentially damaging things that can happen to your home during a cold snap – so make sure your plumbing is wrapped up warm in advance. You can buy insulating jackets for cisterns and water tanks and lagging to keep pipes warm wherever possible; especially in unheated areas like the loft, garage or basement.
Don't leave your loft out
A quarter of the heat loss in a house is lost through the loft, so make sure yours has enough insulation – it should be about 10 inches deep. And when the temperature drops, leave the loft hatch open to allow warmer air to circulate through and reach any water tanks kept in your loft.
Leave the heating on
It sounds extravagant, we know. But when cold weather is forecast, leave your heating on a low temperature (12C-15C) at all times, preventing your pipes freezing and keep everything ticking along nicely. This is even more important if you’re going away for a few days and can’t keep an eye on things.
Know where your stopcock is
Should a burst pipe happen, knowing exactly where and how to turn your water off could still minimise water damage and stop a debacle turning into a catastrophe.
A stopcock is a valve for doing this and looks a bit like a tap, it can usually be found below your kitchen sink. However, in some houses the stopcock can be found in a hallway, bathroom, cupboard under the stairs, larder, cellar, or next to the gas meter. Locate yours now, because it’s much easier than trying to find it with water pouring through the ceiling...
Check your smoke alarms
If winter in your house means scented candles and roaring fires (or even if it doesn’t), be sure to replace the batteries in your smoke detectors and check they’re in good working order. It’s so much easier to feel cosy when you also know you’re safe.
Bleed your radiators
Put the heating on and feel your radiators. If they’re hot at the bottom but cool at the top, it’s a sign that air is probably trapped inside, preventing the radiator from heating up properly. This kind of inefficient heating wastes money and forces your boiler to work harder, which can cause problems further down the line – not to mention leaving you in the cold. But luckily, it’s simple to sort out.
First you need to fetch every household’s most elusive tool, the radiator bleeding key (try that overstuffed drawer in the kitchen – or you can buy one at a DIY shop). Make sure the heating is turned off again, then locate the square ‘bleed screw’ at the top of the radiator and use the key to turn it anti-clockwise. You’ll hear a hissing sound as the trapped air escapes, and then a steady trickle of water when all the air is released (have a cloth handy). You may need to bleed some radiators more than once, but if this still doesn’t fix the problem then call an engineer.
Much better now than on Boxing Day…
This Money Matters post aims to be informative and engaging. Though it may include tips and information, it does not constitute advice and should not be used as a basis for any financial decisions. Sainsbury's Bank accepts no responsibility for the opinions and views of external contributors and the content of external websites included within this post. Some links may take you to another Sainsbury's Bank page. All information in this post was correct at date of publication.