Checklist: How to winter-proof your home

Graham Ellis MRICS

Associate Director Residential (RICS)

With the cold weather now upon us (for those of us in the northern hemisphere!), RICS is advising homeowners to check their properties to help stop the predicted harsh weather from taking its toll on their property, heating and maintenance bills.

House_roof_winter

Properties are vulnerable to attack both from the outside elements and the moist, warm conditions that build-up inside during the winter months, so now is an ideal opportunity to prepare.

The RICS winter property checklist includes:

Roof

  • Inspect the roof and replace any cracked tiles
  • If chimney pots are in place but not in-use consider protecting them, by fitting ventilated cowls

Loft

  • Check the insulation is in good condition (up to current standard)
  • Avoid over insulating. It is important that the tanks and pipes in the loft do not freeze, so do not insulate below the tank
  • Make sure the lid is on the cold-water tank

Gutters and drains

  • Clear them of leaves and debris.  Take particular care that the gulleys are clear
  • Overflowing gutters can drench walls and cause damage
  • Insulate external drain pipes (eg those for central heating) with waterproof tape or similar material

Walls

  • A lot of heat loss in the home can be through the walls. Properly installed cavity or solid insulation can be a good option and reduce your energy bills but you are advised to obtain expert advice first.
  • Check the pointing – frost can play havoc with poorly maintained walls
  • Make sure water can run off the building; fill gaps to cement angle fillets at wall junctions
  • Consider fitting reflective foil behind radiators on outside walls

External paving

  • In very cold weather water on paving will freeze
  • Ensure the paving is well drained and avoid water collecting, freezing and causing accidents

Decking

  • Check that it hasn’t obstructed air bricks and gulleys

Windows

  • Check perimeters of all windows to make sure water flows away from glass and doesn’t collect on the sill, or drain behind it
  • It is important to minimize draughts.  If double-glazing is not in place (it cuts heat loss through windows by 50 percent), consider fitting cheaper options such as secondary glazing or put polythene across the window frames
  • Curtains can make a big difference to heat loss. Consider thermally insulated curtains for windows and the outside doors

Doors

  • Stop draughts through letterboxes by fitting a cover and put a sealant around the door frames

Floors

  • Fill gaps between exposed floor boards
  • If there are stripped floors in place consider putting down rugs in the winter to reduce draughts up between the boards
  • Ensure central heating pipework in the ventilated floor voids is insulated (70% of the heat input may be lost if uninsulated)

Chimney

  • Have wood and coal burning flues swept
  • Fit chimney balloons in open flues

Boilers

  • Have your boiler serviced
  • If you have a condensing boiler, insulate the external condensate and ensure it is of the correct bore
  • Consider fitting a trace heater to prevent the boiler from freezing

And finally, check your heating system is in order; insulate hot water tanks, and bleed radiators.

While many of these simple tasks can be undertaken safely in the home it is important that people seek the advice of reputable professionals when looking to complete larger jobs.

We also advise people to avoid using builders and tradespeople who cold call.  To find a local, trusted chartered surveyor in your area go to RICS Firms.

The outside of a house takes a battering in the winter so a realistic, 360 degree assessment of its current condition is advisable – think roof, walls, floors, windows and doors and repair, seal or insulate where possible.

However, letting a property breath the warm air out is as important as stopping the cold air from coming in.  Today’s lifestyle of showers, washing up, periodic short bouts of heating throughout the day and a lack of ventilation can lead to a build-up of what amounts to litres of water daily that forms condensation and damp on window sills, furniture and walls.

This problem can be prevented by simply opening the windows every now and then.  Unfortunately security and ventilation are conflicting requirements.

About Roy Ilott FRICS

Chartered building surveyor Roy Ilott FRICS started his own building surveying practice in 1980 after gaining 14 years experience, mainly in maintenance. Since then he has accumulated further experience in surveys, repairs, alterations and extensions to properties of all ages and types.

What are your tips for winter-proofing a property? Leave a comment below.


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