Winter brings about many things to look forward to—huddling around in warm and comfy blankets, hot chocolate, gatherings around the fireplace, bonfires and hot chocolate (yes, we have mentioned it again. One can never have enough hot chocolate). But while you are focusing and preparing for the good things, you need to be prepared for the bad, too. Winters are the time when most issues occur in homes, and if you are a homeowner, you need to take care of your property so that its value does not decrease, and you are prepared for the damages that are likely to occur in the winters. If you are a landlord who is renting property in the UK, it is your responsibility to take care of the repairs and make sure that there are no safety hazards.
Last year, the winter storms and floods in the UK caused up to £2.5 billion in losses. It is important that you take proper measures to protect your property against the problems that the tough winters may cause. Your house is an investment, and if you are planning to sell your property at some time in the future, you should take care of these details to keep it in top shape.
1. Prevent Frozen Pipes
The most common occurrence in the winter is the freezing of the pipes. Water becomes your enemy in the winters, as it causes the most costly damages. The water freezes in the pipes and causes them to burst. Replacing pipes is expensive, and it would be of no use if you do not have any preventive measures in place, because the pipes would damage again. Here is what you can do to prevent this damage:
1. Provide Insulation
Providing insulation to the pipes is a great way to make sure that the low temperatures does not affect them. The best way to do so is to use the foam-rubber pipe insulation. You can easily find it at any hardware shop near your home. They are easy to install. All you have to do is:
- Cut the foam pipes to the lengths of the pipes
- Fit them on
- Remove the cover from the adhesive and stick the foam in place
When insulating the pipes, do not forget to protect the hose bibs, too. Remove them from the hoses and cover them with insulating covers.
2. Seal all Cracks and Holes in the Walls before Winter
All the cracks and holes around your home should be insulated so that no air may pass through. Seal it with some caulk (you can get this at any hardware store). Caulking these openings would ensure that no cold air from the outside passes into the house.
3. Drain and Shut off the Water Supply when You are Leaving it Unoccupied
When you are leaving the house, and would be no one to attend the house, make sure that you drain the water supply system so that there is no water in the pipes that would freeze. Also shut off the supply of the water completely so that there is no chance of freezing and bursting of pipes when you are not around.
4. Protect the External Pipes
The pipes that are located on the exterior walls, are adjacent to it, or are inside the closets/ base cabinets; increase the warm air circulation by opening the doors or using a fan to ease the circulation.
5. Have a Professional Check the Plumbing and Drainage Systems
No matter how many steps you have taken to insulate the pipes and ensured that everything is in place, there is no replacement for a professional’s eye. Hire a plumber to get all your drainage systems and plumbing checked, in case that you missed something.
2. Clear the Gutters and Drains
To make sure that the water drains properly, remove the debris to clear away the path. The gutters should be working perfectly and should be stable to handle the flow of water.
In the autumn, the fall of twigs and leaves in the gutters would pose a problem in the winters as they would create blockage to the flow of water. This blockage can create damages in the structure of your property, and if you are renting the house, your tenants might have to move out while you have the proper repairs done.
De-cluttering your gutters and drains is an easy job. Clear away the downpipe with a trowel, and if the blockage is too thick, you can invest in a drain cleaner tool to sort it out quickly and efficiently.
3. Prevent Your Roof from Collapsing Under the Snow
Falling snow can look amazing, but when it piles up on your roof, the immense weight might cause it to collapse. This is a safety hazard, and as a landlord, it is your responsibility to keep the property safe for the tenants. Here is a checklist for you to follow to make sure that your tenants are safe during the heavy snow:
- Generally, a common roof can handle up to 20 lb of snow per square foot. Check with the builder to see what is the load rating for the roof
- Get a professional for the removal of snow from the roof
- High snow build-up is on roofs which have flat roofs over porches or low slopes
- The danger zone is when the weight of the snow exceeds 20 lbs
Make Sure that Your Roof is not Damaged
If your roof is damaged or has any issues, it would cause a huge problem when the winter comes, as the roof would not be able to handle the huge loads of snow.
Cracked, missing or loose tiles on the roof may cause structural damages to the house when subjected to the load of snow and if you sort it out before the cool winds blow, you can make sure that the house would be protected from any heavy damages.
If you want, take a look yourself, but it is preferable that you get a professional to survey it properly. Fix the small problems on your own, but for heavy duty fixings, leave that to the professionals.
4. Install Weather Seals and Stripping
The energy efficiency of your home would increase if you install weather seals and stripping. The utility bills will also be reduced by about 30%. There are many different types of weather stripping and seals available in the market and you can choose the one that you find best for use in your mail chutes, air conditioners, vents, plumbing, fans, gas and electrical lines, doors and windows.
The most common weather strips include tension seal, foam tape, felt, door sweeps and tubular vinyl, rubber or silicone.
5. Repair Damaged Fireplace
Fireplaces are the piece of furniture only used in the summer. This means that all the remaining months of the year it remains mostly unused. If there are any problems with the fireplace, you would only know them after the winter starts. More often than not, it will be coated with dust and rust during the year and it is likely that it will not work, or may pose as a danger to the residents.
Have your fireplace serviced before the winter and have it cleaned it thoroughly. If you can, give it a good clean yourself. Have it checked by a Gas Safe Engineer who can look through the nooks and corners of the fireplace and make sure that nothing is amiss.
6. Make Sure that the Alternate Heating Sources are Safe
During winters, many people opt for an alternate heating source like pellet stoves or space heaters. It is important that these sources should be used responsibly and safely so as to avoid any fire hazards.
There are many different types of alternate heating stoves; all of them provide different levels of thermal protection. Some are insulated so that they are safe to touch while others are not safe for homes as they do not have any insulation as they are designed to provide more heat in a large area.
Wall mounted stoves are safe for the home as they are insulated, but you should take care that it is installed in a place where maintenance is easy, and it is not near any flammable materials.
Here is a checklist for you when you are installing or using these heating sources:
For small spaces, this heating source is an affordable solution, but in winter months, this can be a fire hazard. If you have one in your home, or in the property that you are renting, make sure you and/ or the tenants follow these safety rules:
- Never use a fuel (like gasoline) that is not specified in the user manual
- Do not leave it unattended. Always shut it down if you are leaving the house
- Before the winter, have it inspected to ensure that it is safe for use
- Buy a heater which has heat guards
- Maintain a distance of 36 inches between the heater and any combustible material like wood furniture or furnishings
- Make sure that the wiring is not frayed or chewed
- If you want to refuel the heater, wait until it is cool
- Do NOT place the cord under the rug
These stoves are dangerous if they are not used with care, and may cause chimney or house fires. Keep these things in mind when you are using wood stoves:
- If you are using a stove that you have taken from a friend, then first make sure that it does not have any cracks or broken parts
- Make sure that a distance of 36 inches is maintained between the heater and any combustible material
- The floor above which the stove is installed should be a non-combustible covering, and for safety purposes, it should extend at least 18 inches on all four sides of the stove
- In the bottom of the firebox, place a layer of firebrick or sand
Pellet stoves uses compressed pellets or wood as fuel to burn. If you are installing it for the first time, hire a certified and licensed professional to do the job as they will adhere to the safety regulations that are important to follow during installation to ensure safety. Keep the pellet stoves away from combustible materials, and do NOT use these to vent the pellet stove:
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe
- Dryer vent
- Single-wall stove pipe
- Gas appliance Type B vent
For pellet stoves, keep these things in mind:
- When you choose a fuel, make sure you know how regularly you would have to clean the stove
- Maintain it regularly, and check for damages on a daily basis
- Before the start of winter, have the vents cleaned professionally
- Before installation, check if your chimney requires any relining
7. Install Carbon Monoxide Alarms in Your Home
When you are renting property in the UK, you are required by law to install carbon monoxide alarms in the house. These alarms are extremely important during the winters as they ensure that the residents are notified if there is an increase in the concentration of carbon monoxide in the home. Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas, which makes it harder to identify without the help of any smart devices.
8. Educate Your Tenant
In order to make sure that the tenant is protected from the usual hazards that are prevalent during the winters, you can hand them a handy winter guide which they can use as a checklist to maintain the appliances and stay safe. This will also ensure a healthy relationship with your tenant.
If you are renting your house for the first time and are at a loss, you can find some handy tips here, here, and here. If you are looking for a reliable online estate agent, or simply need to have your queries answered by an expert in the real estate, contact iMoveEstates today!