Preparing your home for winter

Itís now officially winter as daylight hours disappear and the weather takes a decidedly nasty turn. Whilst you can prepare yourself for winter with a warm coat and a range of winter soups, the same kind of care needs to be taken about your property.

Tasks such as coating your pipes with insulation jackets to prevent them from bursting and making sure your boiler has the correct insurance are vital to ensure things run smoothly at home this winter.

Here is a brief guide to preparing your property for winter.

Crime

As the clocks go back, crime rates increase. Recent research has found that crime rates increase by 26% between Halloween and bonfire night. Research from Aviva found that the period between October 30th and November 5th has the highest weekly average crime rate for the whole of the UK.

Strathclyde experienced a 57% increase in reported burglaries for that week compared to the rest of the year in 2010. According to the research, bonfire night is the worst night of the year for break-ins. The shorter days provide more opportunities for criminals to work under the cover of darkness.

Over ten years of research from the insurance company reveals that there has been a rise of 150% in malicious damage claims to property. The most common Halloween claims on home insurance include smashed windows, vandalism to vehicles and damage to garden properties.

It is vital that you have adequate home insurance, which covers theft and malicious damage. The majority of standard policies should cover this, although it is worth checking exactly what you are covered for. 

Burst Pipes

The consequences of having inadequate home cover could be disastrous. Most insurers will offer home emergency cover should you experience a burst pipe or damage by storms.

Burst pipes are one of the most common claims on home insurance according to insurance experts. This occurs when water freezes within the pipe, then expands and escapes. The average claim for a burst pipe on a home insurance policy is £15,000.

The majority of basic home insurance policies should cover this. You can take steps to protect your pipes by insulating them with a specialist insulation jacket. It would also be advisable to insulate your water tank to protect your pipes. 

The risk of burst pipes dramatically increases if the home is left unattended for a long period of time during the winter months. If you are travelling abroad this winter it could be advisable to keep the heating on at a low temperature between 12 and 15 degrees. If you are going away for an extended period of time during the winter, you may want to consider draining the water system. However, seek advice from a plumber before doing so.

Check the gutter

One step that you could take to avoid burst pipes and damage to your property is clearing the gutter. The gutter may have collected debris from nearby trees and could also be blocked with leaves, twigs and more. This could create a backlog of water, which could seep into the roof and cause damp. Excess water may also freeze over, which could add pressure to the pipes. The weight of frozen water in the gutter may also cause it to break away from the house causing further damage to the property.

Check your boiler

Replacing a broken boiler in the middle of winter can be an expensive and stressful experience. It is advisable to check whether your boiler is still up to date and fully functioning. You may also want to consider taking out boiler and heating insurance if your home insurance does not already include it. If you are renting or live in social housing you do not need to buy cover. However, it is the responsibility of the landlord or the homeowner to do so.

There are often two types of insurance available; boiler only or central heating cover and boiler cover combined.

One way you can ensure that your boiler is kept in a good condition is by paying for a boiler inspection. This will set you back around £50-£80 or possibly more for a condensing boiler. However, if your boiler is kept in a good condition it should prevent it from breaking down, ultimately reducing you insurance premium.

Check your roof

It is essential that you check your roof before itís too late. If any part of it is not watertight then heat can escape and all your insulation efforts are wasted.   Water can often find its way into the home, leaks and drips can often appear from the smallest gap. Check for cracked tiles and slates throughout the winter, as weather damage could easily occur.

If you have a chimney, it could be worth getting someone to take a look inside as debris could have collected in the chimney which will reduce the effects of a roaring fire. It is also important to make sure that it is fire safe for the winter, so that you are not at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning.

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