Preparing your Home for Cold Weather

street of homes in winter

During the winter months, insurers typically deal with thousands of claims to repair properties damaged by bad weather, such as burst pipes, flooding, storms. However, it is important to remember that a home insurance policy is not a maintenance contract, it is crucial to keep your property is in good condition. This not only helps to prevent damage which is but also to ensure that should the worst occur; your claim will be dealt with as smoothly as possible.

Take the correct steps and precautions to ensure your property is equipped to survive the cold.

Maintenance and general preparations:

  • Routine building inspections should be carried out regularly to identify any potential issues and carry out essential maintenance.
  • Extra attention should be given to areas such as pipe lagging, roof insulation, boiler maintenance and the building exterior.
  • Ensure the regular clearing of gutters and drains. This will decrease the risk of blockages that can lead to water damage to your building.
  • Locate your stopcock and make sure family members know where it is. This will enable water to be quickly shut off in an emergency and minimise damage.
  • Check your roof for loose, cracked, or missing tiles. You can assess the roof from the ground, to see if anything looks awry. A good tip is to look out for shards of tile or grit in the gutters and on the floor. It’s often best to get professional guidance.
  • Keep a careful eye on nearby trees that could fall onto the property in stormy weather.

Water heating systems:

  • Leave boilers and water heating systems running during winter months, even if the property is unoccupied temporarily.
  • Keeping the temperature to a minimum of 10°C can help to avoid many problems.
  • Set up your thermostat’s frost setting. This tells the system to switch on automatically during cold weather.
  • Keep note of when you last carried out a full service. Heating systems and boilers need to be inspected and maintained on a regular basis.

Pipes and water tanks:

  • Inspect the entire system for potential faults or vulnerabilities. Pay close attention to areas exposed to cold conditions, such as pipes or tanks located outside the property or on the roof.
  • Insulate or completely drain outdoor taps between uses.
  • Keep your heating on for regular intervals and make sure to set it on a timer if you are out.
  • Make sure that water pipes and water tanks in the loft are insulated with good quality lagging. Local DIY stores and can provide useful information if you are unsure.
  • As mentioned above find and test your stopcock. It is often found under the kitchen sink or under the stairs. If you cannot locate it seek advice from a trusted plumber or ask a neighbour living in the same style of house.
  • Repair any leaky or dripping taps to help prevent water from freezing.

If your pipes DO freeze:

  • Turn the water mains off via the stopcock immediately. Wait for the pipes to warm up naturally or try and thaw them with a hot water bottle.
  • Do not attempt to hit the ice using a hammer or melt it with a blow touch as this is likely to cause additional damage.
  • Move any valued possessions, such as furniture or clothing, which are near the frozen pipes in case they burst.

If a pipe DOES burst:

  • Shut off the water at the stopcock.
  • Switch off central heating and any other water heating installations.
  • Open all taps around the house to drain the system.
  • Move any possessions, furniture, or clothing etc., to prevent further damage.

In the event of a potential claim, contact your insurer straight away to seek advice. Many insurers have a 24-hour helpline, and you should find the relevant number in your policy documents (ask your insurer or broker if you can’t find it). Your insurer will be able to advise you on any emergency measures that need to take place and discuss the next steps to arrange repairs to your property.

For further insurance advice, contact our team below.

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