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Tips to protect your home against the first cold snap of winter

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
As the Met Office warns people to be aware of the snow as temperatures could plunge to -15C in some parts of the UK over the next few days, homeowners should take steps now to ensure their property is ‘winter ready’.

Insurer SunLife has come up with a checklist of points homeowners should consider to help ensure their properties are prepared for the coldest weather snap in four years.

According to Simon Stanney, director of insurance at SunLife, bitterly cold temperatures, wind, rain and snow can do serious damage to a property but these are his top tips for a ‘winter ready’ home:

Use your phone

If you are away, think about putting your heating on a timer or using a thermostat control that works with an app like Nest to control it remotely from your phone. If you are away and there is a sudden cold snap, you can turn the heating on to prevent pipes from freezing.

Find your stopcock

Make sure you know where your stopcock is – it’s the valve that turns the cold water system in your home on and off. If your pipes burst, this is where to turn it off to stop the house flooding. It is usually under the kitchen sink, but if not, ask a neighbour as they’ll generally be in the same place in other houses in the same road – or seek professional advice from a plumber.

Check your roof

Check your roof regularly to ensure there are no missing tiles or tiles that have slipped or worn; you may be able to check from your loft for any broken, dislodged or missing roof tiles.

If you have a chimney, make sure it is clean and take a look at the lead flashings (where the chimney meets the roof) to ensure it is properly sealed. Check upstairs rooms for any damp as this could be a sign of a leak.

Insulate your pipes

One of the most common winter problems is burst pipes so to reduce the risk, ensure all your water pipes and any water tanks are well insulated, ideally with a foam layer around the pipes. Also, ensure you fix any dripping taps because a small trickle of water, particularly from an outdoor tap, can freeze and completely block the pipe. It also helps to have the heating on regularly each day.

Keep your gutters and drains clear

Gutters and drains can get full of leaves and other debris so make sure you clear them regularly to avoid blockages and minimise the risk of water damage. Also check they are all aligned and the bottom of the pipe is facing away from your property to avoid water running down your house.

Check your boiler

No-one wants to be left without heating or hot water over winter period and if yours breaks, a new one can be very costly. Get your boiler serviced as soon as possible to minimise the risk.

Cut back trees

In high winds, the most common claims are for damage done by fallen fences and trees so make sure you repair any unsafe fences or walls and cut back any trees that are close to the house. If you think they pose a real danger, it may be worth considering arranging for their professional removal.

Check your home insurance policy

Check you know what your home insurance covers and if it includes weather related damage. Then ensure you have contact details for your insurer if the worst happens and you need to claim – most have 24-hour emergency helplines.


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