Prepare your property for winter

Mike Shaw
Written by: Mike Shaw
Posted on: 1 September 2015

Burst pipes, malfunctioning boilers, flooding and storm damage are just some of the potential problems for homeowners and landlords during the autumn and winter months.

But with preparation and planning you can reduce the chances of having a property disaster when temperatures drop.

Lag pipes

Rapid freezing and thawing can lead to burst pipes – and massive damage. The best way to stop this from happening is to keep your pipes warm by lagging them with special foam. This will reduce heat loss and insulate the pipes to stop them from freezing.

Leaving kitchen cupboards and bathroom doors open will allow warm air to reach hidden pipes.

Get your boiler serviced

Arrange for a Gas Safe registered engineer to service your boiler. This will ensure it’s both safe and working efficiently. Legally, landlords need to do this every year or risk a massive fine. Owner-occupiers aren’t obliged to have an annual service but it’s still a good idea.

Get insured

Whether you’re an owner-occupier or landlord, make sure you have the right insurance. Landlords need specialist landlord insurance to cover rented properties, while homeowners will need both buildings and contents insurance (the latter may be included in your service charge if you own a flat).

  • Rooftops, countryside in background, chimney with smoke
  • Window surrounded by thatched roof with snow on it

Bleed the radiators

If your radiators are colder at the top than they are at the bottom, then they have trapped air inside them that’s stopping the heat from circulating properly. Bleed your radiators with a radiator key; this releases the air and allows the radiator to run more efficiently.

Locate your stopcock and gas supply

It’s important to be able to turn off utilities in the event of an emergency. Make sure you know where your mains water stopcock is and how to turn it off. You'll also want to know how to turn off the gas supply to your property.

Do repairs

Completing basic maintenance will mean there’s less chance of a small issue turning into a big disaster during a cold or stormy spell.

Make good any defects to fences, gates, roof tiles, sheds and outbuildings before the weather gets too cold. Make sure your gutters are clear from leaves and other gunk so they don’t get blocked – blockages can lead to leaks and gutters breaking.

Speak to your tenants

Landlords should ensure tenants are well equipped for winter. Have a chat with them about their responsibilities and who to call if things go wrong.

Tenants should know where the stopcock is and how to turn it off, how to adequately ventilate a property, who to call if the boiler breaks down, and how to prevent pipes from freezing.

Basic maintenance will mean there’s less chance of a small issue turning into a big disaster in the winter

Empty properties

If you’re leaving either your own home empty or you have a rental property with a void period, be prepared.

Contact your insurer if you are leaving your property uninhabited for a significant amount of time to understand how it could affect your cover and to get tips and advice.

Ask a neighbour to check for burst pipes or floods at your own home and regularly check unlet rental properties.

Keep the central heating on at a minimum of 15C (or 59F) if there is a possibility of outside temperatures dropping below freezing.

Be ready for emergencies

Put together a survival kit for emergencies. Include a torch, candles and matches for power cuts. Consider buying a small electric heater, in case your central heating breaks down.

If it snows, you might need a supply of food if you are far away from shops, plus keep some grit for paths and driveways.

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