Winter Freeze: Protecting your home this winter

With the cold snap looming, now is the time to be giving your home a winter MOT – before you end up counting the cost, both financially and physically.

The winter can cause severe damage to the inside and outside of your home, so you need to be prepared. With this in mind, check out our guide to winter-proofing your home.

Pipes

Water pipes are vulnerable to freezing during the winter, so be sure to check pipes and cisterns for lagging. The first places to check are unheated areas, such as your loft or basement. Steps to consider include:

  1. Insulate pipes and cisterns. Pre-formed tubular insulating material is ideal.
  2. Familiarise yourself with where your stop taps are located. These are usually located underneath your sink. Make sure they are in good working order in case you quickly need to turn off the water supply.
  3. Check that your loft insulation is thick enough. Make sure it is placed over the pipes, rather than under.
  4. Repair dripping taps.
  5. If you are going away, prevent pipes from freezing by keeping your central heating at a low temperature. Also, leave the loft door ajar, allowing warm air to reach the loft and preventing pipes from freezing over.
  6. For burst pipes, turn off all stop taps and call your Home Emergency help line immediately.

If your pipes freeze

Don’t panic. Whilst this is an emergency situation, and you need to act fast, do so carefully.

This happens when the temperature drops so much it freezes the water in your pipes. The freezing may cause the pipe to burst, not only causing severe damage to you plumbing and drainage system, but also causing thawed water to pour from the break.

  1. Turn off

Your main stop tap should be located underneath your kitchen sink. The stop cock is located in the water tank usually located in the attic or loft. This will prevent more water from getting into the pipes before they are repaired.

  1. Protect

Locate where the pipe appears to be frozen and protect the surrounding environment – to avoid damage to your possessions, in case it bursts. If you have already experienced damage, be sure to take photos for evidence.

Don’t forget to place buckets or bowls under visibly damaged pipes. When the water begins to thaw, the buckets will catch the water, preventing further damage to the surrounding areas.

  1. Thaw

This is important to get right. Don’t apply direct heat to frozen pipes or use heating appliances such as boilers as this can cause pipes to burst as they thaw. You need to defrost the pipes slowly.

Locate the area you think is frozen and use a hot water bottle or a hairdryer (make sure you keep this away from any water) to melt the ice. Open the tap nearest to the frozen pipe and allow the water to flow again once it has melted.

If your pipe bursts

Locate the stop taps and stop cock, and switch off the water supply. Call your plumber immediately and tell your insurer. It’s important to make your insurer aware as soon as possible. Keep a note of their telephone number, in case your insurance documents are damaged by the severe conditions.

Roof and Guttering

As part of any winter MOT, it’s important to check for your roof and guttering. Of course, you must make sure it is safe to do so first. Always make sure you have someone at the foot of the ladder to secure it in place.

  1. Loose Tiles

First thing to check are loose tiles. Make sure they are fixed firmly in place – one loose tile, and you’ll let in more water than you can imagine. Damp and wet in your home during the cold season is not a pleasant experience, so check tiles are fixed properly.

  1. Guttering

Locate the ends of your guttering. These are problematic areas during the winter because fallen leaves and branches can cause a blockage. This will cause water to build up and spill over out of your gutters. Not only can this damage the gutter, but also whatever is directly underneath – particularly if it falls onto another roof or conservatory. During extremely cold temperatures, icicles may form where there is water build-up in your gutters – this is a tell-tale sign that they are blocked.

Inside your home

As part of your winter MOT, there’s plenty to check inside the home too. Every little helps, so be sure to check you have done the following:

  1. Service and check your boiler

The one thing you’ll rely on during the winter is your boiler. To heat your home and have a running supply of hot water, you’ll need your boiler to be in tip-top condition. Make sure that before the cold kicks in, you’ve had your boiler serviced or inspected. This should be done at least once a year.

  1. Sweep your chimney

As wood burners and real fire places are being used more often, as a result of rising energy prices, it’s important that you keep your chimney free from soot and charcoal remains. A blocked chimney can be hazardous to your health and can even cause a house-fire.

  1. Insulate your loft

Loft insulation is a great way to prevent hot air escaping, and minimising cold air penetrating your home. It is recommended that you use insulation as thick as 270mm (Energy Savings Trust). Even if you have already insulated your loft, check that it’s as thick as what’s recommended – there could be more savings to be made. Also, be sure to use draft excluders where possible, for example around door and window edges.

Garden and Outside

Your garden and house exterior can also be winter-proofed, with these simple checks:

  1. External taps

Be sure to check that your outside taps aren’t dripping. In freezing temperatures this can easily freeze over and affect your plumbing. Apply garden hose end connectors or simply switch of the main water supply.

  1. Cracks to brickwork

During the winter period, moisture and damp can seep into cracked brickwork. If this freezes, the crack could worsen. Cracks are normally created due to creeper plants, so if you have this growing up the exterior of your home, be sure to check for cracks.

  1. Branches and trees

Are there any trees or branches close to your property that could cause damage? If so, it’s worth cutting them back. If the tree or branch belongs to a neighbour, ask them first before cutting it back.

Do you have Home Emergency cover?

Our Home Emergency cover is designed to assist you if the worst happens. Check your Home Insurance Policy Schedule now to see if you have Home Emergency cover in place. If you haven’t already included this valuable additional protection and would like to, please call us today on 0800 6 500 500. Emergency assistance to handle insured accidents covering:

  • Plumbing & Drainage
  • The Main Heating System
  • Home Security
  • The Cooking System
  • The Toilet Unit
  • Pest Infestation
  • Lost keys
  • Your Domestic Power supply

 Please read your policy wording carefully, paying particular attention to any exclusions, endorsements and limitations.