Wrapping your home up for the winter

For many, preparing for winter these days is relatively easy – turn the thermostat up, bring out the winter duvet, put on an extra jumper, and make sure the fridge and freezer are fully stocked.   

But it’s also a good time to give your house a bit of thought, so it too is in good shape – both inside and out. Tackling jobs now could save you money in the long run so it does pay to keep on top of it all. As the old saying goes “If you look after your house, your house will look after you”.   

Starting outside, the autumnal winds will almost certainly have blown leaves in the rainwater gutters, gullies and downpipes. This could potentially clog them up and lead to water ingress, so, an easy first job is to get rid of any detritus including any moss that’s fallen in from the roof. 

Other work could include repairing the outside render to ensure it forms a waterproof layer over the brick walls. Tap the external surfaces with a wooden handled bradawl. If the render is loose, the noise the bradawl makes will sound hollow. Any repair work done must be done correctly, otherwise, it will just create more problems, so get a specialist in.  

If the render is sound, rub the painted surfaces with sandpaper, ensuring all loose paint is removed. Use good quality proprietary paint, making sure the correct priming coats are applied. Leave enough time between the coats so the paint dries properly before applying the next coat. 

Another task that may need attention is repointing the brickwork. Rake out all loose mortar from the joints, and re-point using the correct strength of mortar. The new mortar must match the existing otherwise you will make a statement about your repair history for years and it can lead to a reduction in the value of your property. If in doubt, get a professional to do it for you.   

Looking at ground level, one task that is sometimes overlooked is checking the external ground level is well below the damp proof course. If soil is heaped against the house side wall above the damp proof course, it will allow moisture to bridge the course, and thereby enter the house, causing an internal damp problem.  

There should be at least 100mm height between the external soil level and the damp proof membrane, to prevent this from happening. It’s a simple remedy, which can save thousands of pounds in repair work in the future. 

Finally outside, check the overflow to make sure it’s not leaking. If water is running out of the pipe, it means a ball valve is likely to be leaking. A plumber can easily fix this, or you can buy a new washer from a local builder’s merchant, and insert it yourself, making sure you leave it in good working order. 

Going inside, heating is another area which merits attention. Gas boilers should be serviced annually, to ensure they run efficiently. If your boiler is located within a living area, consider putting a carbon monoxide monitor in. Carbon monoxide is an odourless gas which can be fatal if it leaks. Monitors are relatively cheap and will give you peace of mind.  

Oil boilers should also be serviced to ensure heat transfer to the boiler plates from the burner’s flame is done as efficiently as possible. Burner nozzles should also be checked, and the boiler chimney should be swept to make sure there is sufficient draft to allow a good clean burn. All boilers should be serviced by a reputable and licensed heating engineer.  

If you are lucky enough to have a traditional fireplace don’t forget to get it swept. This should be done annually to prevent soot building up which gradually reduces the draft. If it builds to such a thickness, it can present a fire hazard so get a sweep in every year to get it cleaned.  

Finally, if you are thinking of going away for any period of time, and the heating isn’t on, it would be wise to turn the water supply off at the stop cock. Drain the system down, and put salt in the toilets. This nifty trick stops them freezing and cracking the porcelain if the temperature dips. You could also consider leaving an electric heater on with thermostatic control. There will always be pockets of water present in the pipework, so a little heat will stop the pipes from becoming damaged. 

Remember, all these maintenance jobs are relatively cheap, but can save you thousands in the long term especially if they are done on a regular basis.