There's more to getting your house ready for winter than stocking up on festive decorations. Shorter days and colder temperatures mean more time spent at home, enjoying cosy nights in. But while you cuddle up on the couch, it's worth remembering that the winter chill can put a real strain on your property. Preparing your house for winter doesn't take long but can save a lot of hassle (and money) in the long run.
Why is winter home preparation important?
The darker half of the year brings a lot of weather-related issues that can damage your property. For example, icy temperatures can trigger big problems like frozen pipes, and falling leaves can lead to blocked drains. The cold can also put stress on your boiler, causing it to break down – and nobody wants to be without heating and hot water during chilly days.
While winter home preparation might not stop issues from cropping up, it lowers the chance of problems becoming serious.
How to avoid the most common cold-weather home insurance claims
Escape of water
Many winter home insurance claims tend to be for escape of water, such as burst pipes or boiler leaks.
How to avoid:
- Get your boiler serviced annually – preferably before winter
- Keep your heating on low while you're out to stop indoor pipes from freezing
- Turn off outside taps for the winter by isolating their supply from the stopcock
- If easily accessible, lag and insulate all water tanks and pipes
- Let warm air circulate throughout your house by keeping inside doors open
While it's not possible to stop storms from happening, you can prepare so that their impact isn't as bad.
How to avoid:
- Thoroughly clean leaves, moss and twigs out of your gutters, downspouts and drains so that water can run away freely
- Have your roof inspected and repair any cracked, damaged or broken tiles that could come loose during high winds
- Ensure your garden furniture is secure or safely stored
- Trim low-hanging and loose tree branches that could cause damage in a storm
- Make sure fences, gates and hedges are secure and in good repair before the winter weather rolls in. Most storm damage cover usually excludes these parts of your property, so it's better to repair now rather than pay out-of-pocket to replace them later.
Christmas lights, scented candles and roaring fires all add to a cosy winter atmosphere, but they can be hazardous.
How to avoid:
- Test your smoke alarms
- Get your chimney cleaned – sooty build-ups are combustible, so it's important to make sure your chimney is clean as a whistle before lighting your first winter fire.
- Keep space heaters away from soft furnishings, and never place them beside damp washing
- Turn off fairy lights before going to bed
- Never leave candles, fires and other open flames unattended
Winter home preparation checklist
As well as following our tips above, work through this quick checklist while preparing your house for winter.
Find your cold water stopcock. This is the tap which turns off water for the whole property. Knowing exactly where it is means you can react quickly if a pipe bursts.
Be prepared for blackouts. Put together a kit with candles, matches, torches and spare batteries. Keep them together, in a place that will be easy to access in the dark.
Bleed your radiators. Trapped air in your radiators causes noisy gurgles and stops heat from circulating properly. Bleed all of your radiators and your home will be able to heat up more efficiently.
Use cat litter to clear ice off paths. Slippery driveways can be dangerous. Putting down cat litter can make a huge difference and, unlike salt, it won't kill your plants.
Look after your fish pond. To stop your pond freezing over, simply float a tennis ball in the middle of it. This will slow down the formation of ice. If the pond does freeze over, you can simply remove the ball to create an oxygen hole for plants and fish.
Keep blinds and curtains closed at night. It's easy to lose warmth through small cracks in windows. As soon as it starts getting dark, close your blinds and curtains to trap the heat.
Use salt and warm water to unblock drains. Blocked drains can result in burst pipes, so keep them flowing freely by regularly unblocking troublesome drains using a simple solution of warm water and salt. Salt scours surfaces, helping to get rid of any grime lurking in the pipes.
Turn off the water supply to any external garden taps. A common cause of burst pipes is frost building up from the outside and causing pipes to burst. After you turn off the water supply, make sure you also empty the remaining water from the taps.
Make sure you have boiler cover. Boiler breakdowns are more common during the winter. Having boiler cover in place means that you won't be hit with a high bill. For an additional cost, Home Emergency Cover offers 24-hour cover for a range of emergency situations as an optional extra to your Tesco Bank Home Insurance Policy and includes cover for boiler breakdown. Monetary limits, excesses and exclusions apply.
Secure your outbuildings. Don't forget about your sheds and garages. Check that your shed is watertight by looking for – and repairing – cracks in the roof and broken window seals. It's also a good idea to add some insulation.
Check your home insurance policy. Winter is a popular time for making home insurance claims, with maintenance problems cropping up for many at this time for year. Hopefully you won’t need to make a claim, but just in case you do, check your home insurance policy is up to date.
If you are ever in doubt about how to look after your home during the winter months, particularly when it comes to your heating, contact a specialist.
Key product information
Tesco Bank Home Insurance is arranged and administered by Tesco Bank and is underwritten by Tesco Underwriting Ltd.
Home Emergency cover is underwritten by Inter Partner Assistance S.A. UK Branch.