How to prepare your home for winter

Autumn is the time to think about preparing your home for the winter weather ahead.

Carrying out some basic maintenance now could pay dividends and avoid major repairs and inconvenience in the depths of winter.

We’re getting used to extreme weather and more heavy rain, so having your house in the best condition to face the colder months makes good sense. It could save money on your energy bills too.

If you’re wondering how to make your home warmer and more energy efficient, a useful first step is to consult your Energy Performance Certificate which will suggest improvements.

To get your home winter-ready, here’s a list of some easy steps to take before the first cold snap bites.

Get your boiler serviced regularly.

Check your central heating system is working properly

An annual service should be carried out to maintain the correct boiler pressure. Getting your boiler serviced by a professional heating engineer is important at this time of year before your boiler starts having to work hard.

You may need to bleed radiators if they are not heating up from top to bottom. To do this, when the heating is off and the radiators are cool, use a radiator key to open the valve at the top of the radiator and slowly release the air trapped inside. There will be a hissing sound as the air escapes and while this is happening, some water may leak out, so hold a towel under the radiator until you close the valve.

Check the thickness of your loft insulation.

Loft insulation

Topping up insulation will keep your house warmer and stop hot air from escaping through the roof. Property and construction expert Thomas Goodman of MyJobQuote.co.uk said:

As building regulations have recently been updated to try to improve the overall energy efficiency of our homes, it may be time to improve your loft insulation. The recommended depth for blanket insulation is around 27cm, but some materials aren’t as thermally efficient. So, you may need to add an extra layer. For instance, some glass wool insulation may need to be about 40cm deep to bring it up to current efficiency standards.

If you decide to add more insulation, remember to wear a protective suit, mask, and goggles to prevent inhalation of fibres and possible skin irritation. Rising heating costs are set to affect us all this winter, and simple steps such as installing draught-proofing strips around doors and windows are a good way to help make a house warmer in winter weather. Draught proofing around loft hatches is also effective in stopping draughts, along with blocking up unused chimneys.

Clean gutters

Leaves and moss can quickly fill gutters, causing blockages. Heavy rainwater can then overspill onto your home’s walls, leading to damp patches. Clear out the gutters and consider adding gutter guards known as gutter brushes or hedgehogs, which keep them free of leaf build-up. Now is also the time to repair or replace cracked or leaky guttering, downpipes, or brackets before wet weather puts them under pressure.

Prune trees and shrubs

As well as making them look tidier, a prune will promote new growth next year. If you trim trees and shrubs near windows, it will also allow the maximum amount of light into your home. Pruning before all the leaves fall off will prevent more from ending up in your gutters and help avoid heavy snow from building up in trees and branches, causing damage.

Thomas Goodman added:

If you have tree branches hanging over parts of your home such as the conservatory or garage, it’s wise to check they’re in good health and perhaps look at cutting them back. If your tree is large, or you’re unsure of its health, you may want a tree surgeon to come and assess it for you. Weak trees and branches are likely to fall during storms, so it’s worthwhile giving yourself some peace of mind before the weather worsens.

Clean paths and patios

Algae and moss grow more rapidly as sunlight levels fall, making paths slippery in the rain. It’s a good idea to use a pressure washer with a patio attachment to clean paths and patios, alternatively, a bucket of water or garden hose and stiff brush will work well.

You can buy a patio cleaner product to remove the algae, and some are available that don’t contain harsh chemicals. It’s also worth checking that outdoor lights are in good working order to make sure that you can use paths around your home safely in the dark.

Sweep chimneys

This will keep your chimney working efficiently by removing any blockages and soot build-up. A chimney sweep will also identify problems such as water getting into the chimney perhaps from the chimney pots or chimney stack which may need attention.

Extra steps that you can take

The Met Office suggests that measures for protecting your home during the winter period should include:

Preparing for power cuts

It’s important to know what to do in a power cut. The first step is to contact your Electricity Distribution Network Operator by calling 105. Prepare an emergency kit including items such as a torch, batteries, and important documents. Remember to turn off electrical appliances that shouldn’t be left unattended.

Home insurance

Check that your buildings insurance cover policy is up to date and meets your requirements.

Garden furniture

If you have to leave furniture outside over winter, make sure that it’s secure, to avoid it taking off in high winds and causing damage to your own property or other peoples’.

Check your roof tiles

It’s important to get your roof in good condition and ready for winter. Inspect it for slipped or loose tiles, slates, and poorly fitting flashing around chimneys. It’s a good idea to look at nearby trees and branches to see if they could pose a risk to your roof in high winds.

Pipes

To prevent freezing in extreme weather, check that your water pipes and hot water tank in the loft are insulated with effective lagging and insulate your hot water system. This should prevent burst pipes and safeguard against water damage as well as minimise heat loss. Foam pipe lagging can be bought from DIY stores.

Flood risk

Find out if your home is at risk of flooding. You can sign up online for free flood warnings for England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Think ahead to the winter months

So, to avoid the stress and costs of emergency call-outs over the winter, make the most of the occasional sunny day this autumn to get outside jobs done before temperatures drop as the colder weather arrives. Preparing your home for winter could save money on energy bills as well as providing you with peace of mind before the winter storms begin!

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