Winterise Your Home – Part 2
by Maren Schroeder
St Jude, the first autumn storm of 2013, luckily didn’t reach Fife. Unfortunately, last week, just one heavy downpour left us with soaking story books and water stains in our son’s bedroom. We don’t yet know what caused water to drip from the ceiling, but the chimney seems the most likely culprit. A previous leak into the same room in 2010 damaged not just walls and ceiling, but also furniture and carpets. Still, we were lucky, it all dried out after a week or two, but the damage could have been costly. The cause then was damaged lead flashing on one side of the chimney. This September, water stains appeared on the walls of our middle son’s bedroom. The cause: flashing completely covered by moss on the other side of the same chimney. Both leaks could have been prevented if checking the outside of our home for any signs of damage had been part of our winter preparedness routine.
And so, in part two of my post about winterising your home, here are the most important issues you should attend to before the winter:
- Check the roof of your house for any missing, damaged or loose tiles, especially after high winds.
- Check the flashing around chimneys, dormer windows and any other openings on your roof. This is the most common cause of leaks into houses.
- Check all gutters for cracks, holes, and straight runs towards the downspout. After all the leaves have fallen, check for any blockages. Water trapped in blocked gutters could freeze and damage them; water flowing over blocked gutters and running down the walls could lead to damp (especially if you find any problems at checkpoint number four). So clean all debris out first, then hose down the gutters and downspouts to make sure they’re clear.
- Check the bricks, pointing and render of your walls. Any existing cracks might allow damp to penetrate into your house and will most likely become worse with repeated frosts.
- Check your windows for cracked panes and damaged frames and fix them as necessary. If your windows are single glazed, invest in thermal curtains. These will help keep the heat in your rooms longer and might even allow you to turn the thermostat down a degree or two. Thermal curtains are also available for front, attic or garage doors.
- Before rolling up your garden hose to stow it for the winter, drain all water from it to prevent frost damage.
- Turn off all water taps to the garden and any unheated garages or basements. Make sure to turn off the valve first and then open the outside tap to drain any remaining water. Frozen pipes could lead to leaks which might go unnoticed for weeks and cause extensive damage.
- Are all your heating pipes lagged? The heat lost under your floors is money wasted. If your heating system was installed within the last few years, this should have been done by your installer, but have a look anyway and insulate as needed. It doesn’t cost much, but will save you money this winter. Ensure your hot water tank also has its jacket on!
- Don’t forget to double check your heating system. Having it serviced before the onset of winter might prevent much more expensive repair costs later. Is your heating switching on and off at the best times for your needs? Are the thermostats at the right setting? Remember to use the heating system’s frost setting if you go away this winter, to prevent frozen pipes.
- And lastly, if you do find yourself shovelling snow this winter, always move it away from the house to make sure that no slow-thawing snow will cause dampness in your walls. Confirm that you have enough salt or sand to deal with frozen paths.