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How to get your home ready for winter

Melanie Whitehouse / 06 October 2015

Do these easy but essential maintenance jobs in the autumn and you’ll be prepared for the worst the winter months can throw at you.

Caulking a window to protect from bad weather
Check seals on doors and windows before the bad weather starts

As summer turns to autumn and the leaves start to fall, it’s time to spend a few days getting your home and garden into the best shape possible for the winter.

Start with indoor chores

Check the boiler

Get your boiler serviced by a qualified engineer. Yes, it’s boring but it’s also vital if you’re going to have a reliably warm home and hot water this winter.

Sweep chimneys

Have the chimney swept by a professional, who should also check your flue. Go to the National Association of Chimney Sweeps to find one in your area.

Order logs and coal

Order logs and coal, and store outside, within easy reach of the house, in a cool, dry place.

Check door and window seals

Check putty and seals around all doors and windows and fill any gaps with caulk. Check for any signs of damp as this could indicate that the sealant on the outside is failing.

Prevent draughts

If you have big, draughty windows, consider adding temporary insulation with economical double-glazing film (from hardware stores or online), which can be sealed with a hair dryer and easily removed in the spring.

Turn mattress

Turn over mattresses and wash mattress protectors. Replace summer duvets with winter-weight ones, or add an extra throw at the foot of the bed for cold nights.

Clean windows

Clean windows inside and out, to maximise light during the gloomy winter months.

Check alarm batteries

Replace batteries on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Check insulation

Conserve energy by checking attic insulation and padding any exposed pipes – hardware and DIY stores sell foam pipe sleeves that can be cut to fit.

Inspect the loft

Check for signs of damp, particularly in areas where the roof slope changes such as ridges and valleys of the roof, around chimneys, and on brickwork to gable ends. Darker patches, water staining and white streaks of powdery residue could indicate that rainwater has been entering the rood space. While up there, turn off the torch and is daylight can be seen coming through any part of the roof then there is a problem.

Safeguard your pipes

Make sure that water tanks and pipes are lagged (insulated) and replace any lagging that has slipped over time. Locate the mains water stop cock (usually under the kitchen sink) and make sure it can be turned on and off easily – if a pipe burst in the house, this would probably be the first thing to turn off.

Then take yourself outdoors

Clean gutters

An overflowing gutter can cause lots of damp problems over time if not addressed. Clean the gutters and downpipes and remove leaves and other debris. Check for leaks and make sure downpipes lead straight into drains and soakaways. Also check that sections of gutter haven't come apart and that all the fixing brackets are intact and securely attached to the fascia board.

Fill cracks

Maintain garden paths and drives by filling in cracks before the frost can make them bigger.

Check outdoor lighting

Make sure outside lights are working. Low-energy lightbulbs will mean they don’t cost much to leave on when it’s dark outside.

Check tree branches

Inspect trees near the house and remove any branches that might hit power lines or the roof in a gale.

Related: what to do about a neighbour's overhanging tree.

Replace missing roof tiles

Ask a roofer to check out the roof and replace missing or cracked slates or tiles. The most vulnerable areas of a roof to storm are where the wind is forced to change direction - these are normally the 'edges' of the roof, such as ridges, hips and verges.

Inspect outside walls

General check for all walls: inspect brickwork for any cracks and wear (mortar falling out etc); cladding for any defects, rendering for cracks and signs of coming away from wall, tile hanging for slipped or broken tiles and any signs that gutters or downpipes have been leaking (damp marks, mould etc.)

Tend to flat roofs

Flat roofs made from bituminous felt need regular checking as they are prone to leaks and water damage. Things to check for are cracks, heat bubbles, pooling water, de-lamination and joints between the flat roof and walls. You may also want to ensure that the stone chippings (where relevant) have not become displaced as this can expose the felt to the elements, leading to damage. The general life expectancy of a felt flat roof is 10 years.

Keep a shovel handy

Put a shovel within easy reach of the front door, so you can reach it to clear snow and ice from paths and drives.

Finally, tackle the garden

Tend to hoses and taps

Drain garden hoses and disconnect from outside taps. Insulate taps with bubblewrap and put hoses away, neatly coiled, in the shed.

Prune bushes

Prune bushes, shrubs and flowers and plant bulbs ready for spring.

Mulch the soil

Mulch bare soil with garden compost or leaf mould, bark or Strulch (organic chopped straw).

Store fragile pots

Make sure any pots that are not frost proof are stored away.

Tend to the lawn

Mow the lawn on a high setting, then apply fertiliser to the grass. Find out more about caring for your lawn in autumn.

Protect outdoor furniture

Clean and put away outdoor furniture or, if space is short, buy a waterproof cover for it.

Tidy garage and sheds

Tidy your garden shed and the garage, and take anything that you haven’t used for a year to the dump. Remember, they can recycle old paint as well as glass, metal and other household and garden waste.

Find out how some simple changes to your interior can make your home feel cosier.

For information on making a home insurance claim, please see Saga Home Insurance Policy Documentation and Claims.

Saga Home Insurance provides cover that goes beyond what you might expect. For more information and to get a quote click here.


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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.