You should consider winter-proofing your home as something akin to a car’s MOT – a yearly check-up that aims to keep your property in tip-top condition and prevent any expensive damage from occurring. The fixes outlined in this article don’t require a builder or specialist – they can done yourself for just a few pounds and a couple of hours of your spare time.
“Winter is nature’s way of saying, ‘Up Yours.’” – Robert Byrne
Why do I need to winter-proof my property?
Top of the list is the potential to prevent thousands of pounds worth of damage. Consider a frozen pipe that bursts in the loft – everything underneath is going to get badly water damaged. Imagine this happening in the run-up to Christmas!
Secondly, you’ll be able to sit back and relax in a lovely warm, draught-free house, which will help take the edge off those freezing mornings and miserable dark evenings.
Thirdly, you’ll save money on your heating bills.
Below are the main areas that you should focus on.
1. Water pipes
This is an area that lots of people tend to overlook when thinking about winter-proofing their house, after all, you’ll notice a draught way more than you will a pipe hidden in the loft or on an external wall behind the patio furniture. But, as highlighted above, it’s something that you should give particular attention to. If exposed to the cold, the water freezes, expands, and then ruptures the pipe causing a major leak. If the ruptured pipe is indeed in the loft then this can cause catastrophic damage to your property.
The aim of the game is to properly protect any exposed water and heating pipes from the freezing temperatures. Old and period houses are particularly susceptible to this as they may have had new pipes retrofitted. The first place to check is in the loft. Look for any pipes that sit above the insulation, either running along the floor or fastened to the walls. The second place that you want to check is outdoors on your walls. External water taps often have an exposed pipe.
Luckily, insulating these pipes is very straight forward – all good DIY stores sell pipe insulation (sometimes also called pipe lagging) for just a few pounds. Make sure you get the correct diameter for the pipe you want to cover and you can cut to the required length easily enough using a Stanley knife. Then it simply slips over the pipe like a jacket. If you’re applying to an external pipe then it may be worth fixing into place using a few zip ties. Job done.
2. Keep the heating on low
This is a particularly important thing to remember if you’re going away on a winter break (lucky you!) or you’re going to be out of the house for more than a day or two. It’s related to the point above about keeping your pipes from freezing.
Keeping your thermostat on low – around the 10℃ mark – will keep warm water flowing through the pipes intermittently and will prevent them from freezing up and bursting.
3. Service your boiler
OK, so not strictly a DIY job, but one that you should look at getting done for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s good to have the peace of mind that a thorough safety check has been carried out and any issues have been prevented. Secondly, it’ll ensure that your boiler is running as efficiently as possible, which will save you money on your heating bills. Thirdly, the worst possible time for a boiler to break down is in the middle of winter, especially if it’s over the Christmas break as getting a plumber or heating engineer out to fix it will not only be difficult but will likely cost you lots more.
Make sure that any work on your boiler is carried out by a registered Gas Safe professional. You can find a local Gas Safe technician using the official register.
4. Check the guttering for blockages
In the winter it’s all too easy for gutters to get blocked up with dead leaves as well as things like moss and general dirt. A blocked gutter will cause rainwater to spill out over the top and subsequently down your exterior walls. This is the number one cause of penetrating damp in the home and can cause wallpaper to peel off, stains on paintwork and can cause mould, which can lead respiratory illnesses. It’s also possible that the penetrating moisture can can wet rot and even dry rot – problems which can cost thousands of pounds to fix.
5. Check your roof tiles
Whilst you’re up on the ladder checking the gutters I’d recommend taking a peek at the roof. You want to check and make sure that all of your roof tiles are sitting straight, in the correct place. If they’re not then simply move them back into place to ensure that the rain and snow doesn’t leak through and into your loft space. This is a particularly good idea if the weather has been pretty stormy and windy.
You also want to check for any cracked tiles. If you find some then you should look at getting them replaced as soon as possible before the worst of the weather sets in.
6. Loft insulation
The Energy Savings trust recently completed a comprehensive study into the UK’s housing market and found that, incredibly, over a quarter of homes still don’t have any loft insulation. Adding loft insulation is one of the best ways of winter-proofing your house (heat rises, don’t forget), although it takes a little bit more effort than some of the other fixes highlighted in this article.
The EST recommends installing loft insulation with a thickness of 270mm. Not only will this help to keep you and the family toasty in freezing temperatures, it can also save you up to about £150 a year on your heating bill!
If you’re of the more adventurous DIYer then you can purchase rolls of loft insulation from your local DIY store and fit it yourself. A roll of insulation starts at around £25.
It’s also worth noting that as the government is pushing to cut the country’s CO2 emissions, there are quite a lot of grants available to help you out. You should also check with your energy provider as lots of them are also offering great schemes and incentives. The great people over at EST have compiled a large database of all the grants and offers available to you.
7. Fit draught excluders
Nobody likes a draught, but all too often you find that homeowners are simply unaware that a fix is not only cheap, but will only take a few minutes to install.
There are lot of different types of draught excluder available from self-adhesive rubber windows and door strips, to letterbox and keyhole excluders. The are all very cheap items and can be fitted easily yourself. In fact I used the rubber draught excluder on my front door last weekend and I had the whole job done in less than five minutes and for under five quid!
Fitting draught excluders can save you up to £25 a year on your energy bill, so it’s more than likely they’ll pay for themselves in one winter.
So there you have it; my top tips for inter-proofing your property this year before the weather sets in. If you think I’ve missed anything from this list or you have your own cheap and quick fixes then share them in the comments below. It’d also be great if you could share this article with your friends using the buttons below!