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Get your home winter-ready

Get your home winter-ready

Category: Home insurance

Updated: 22/11/2016
First Published: 21/11/2016

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.
We hate to say it, but it looks as though winter is well and truly setting in, with storms already battering much of the country and snow making its first tentative appearance for some. So, if you haven't yet made sure that your home is ready for the colder months ahead, now's the time to get started.

Don't invalidate your insurance

As well as keeping your home safe and secure for the chilly months to come, giving your home a winter once-over can ensure you don't invalidate your home insurance policy. Most policies require a home to be properly maintained for weather damage claims to be valid, so it's worth checking that your home is thoroughly winter-proof.

Start by making a checklist of DIY jobs that you can tick off, and if necessary, consider hiring a tradesperson to help – it may seem an unnecessary expense, but it could be far cheaper than needing to book an emergency call-out should a lack of preparation mean something goes wrong at a later date.
"With predictions for heavy snow just around the corner, it's important to ensure that your home is prepared for everything that the winter months might throw at it," said Adam Powell, of home insurance provider Policy Expert. "Cold and stormy weather can ravage buildings, so it's important to take the time to quickly make sure you have the correct level of home insurance cover before the weather worsens.

"Check the small print – some policies may not cover sheds and outbuildings, and others won't cover damaged boilers if they haven't been seen by a registered plumber." Remember, simple DIY jobs are worth carrying out now to help avoid any problems later, potentially saving you time and money in the months ahead – as well as keeping your insurance policy valid.

Get checking

As well as checking the small print of your building and contents insurance policy so you know exactly what you're covered for, there are a number of other things to check so you're prepared for the winter weather:

  1. Roof tiles. You can give the roof a visual once-over, but if you've got any concerns, you'll want to get a professional to take a closer look. Now's definitely the right time to check that the tiles are secured and sealed correctly, as you wouldn't want to find out otherwise during a winter storm.

  2. Guttering. There'd be nothing worse than finding your guttering was blocked during a particularly heavy downpour, so make sure that everything is clear and operating as it should be. Hop up a ladder to take a closer look – ensure that any leaves, mud, debris or other obstructions are removed, and pay special attention to the ends of the guttering or any junctions (or if you can't do it personally, ask friends or a tradesperson to help).

  3. Insulation. Insulation is particularly essential at this time of year to ensure that your home stays warm and toasty throughout the cold spell, so you'll want to check that you've got the right kind (and amount) of insulation for your loft and cavity walls. Efficient double glazing can also help keep homes warm – check the seals on windows and doors to ensure you don't lose precious heat – as can simple things like draught excluders (if you need anything specific to be addressed, it'd be worth speaking to your energy provider to see if you qualify for free energy saving home improvements). Don't forget to lag any pipes and water tanks – it can help prevent pipes freezing and bursting.

  4. Boiler. Your boiler should be serviced on a regular basis, so if you haven't yet done so this year, get it checked and/or serviced by a registered plumber (you wouldn't want a boiler breakdown in the middle of the big freeze, after all). You could also ask them to check that the radiators are in good working order, and you may find that you need to "bleed" the radiators to get the air out and ensure even heat distribution – this can be done on a DIY basis, but if you're unsure, get someone to help.

  5. Gas and electricity. Higher gas and electricity bills are an unfortunate fact of winter life. It isn't just the heating, either, as winter means higher energy usage all round (the lights will be on for longer, and the oven will be used more regularly as summer salads are replaced with hearty stews). Check out our top tips for keeping your bills under control, and compare energy tariffs to see if you can find a cheaper deal.

  6. Walls and windows. Check the external walls for signs of damaged pointing or brickwork to see if there are any areas that could do with a quick repair job. Similarly, take a look at your window frames and sills: fill any cracks and put on a coat of paint or varnish if necessary, as wet weather and extreme temperatures can cause untreated wood to expand and eventually rot.

  7. Chimneys. In a similar vein, give your chimney stack a quick visual once-over to check for cracks or loose render – stormy weather can damage chimneys even more, so if anything needs to be repaired, make sure you arrange it before winter truly sets in.

What next?

If it's almost time to renew your home insurance policy, compare quotes to see if you can get a more competitive offer from another provider. Make sure to check that you're covered for things such as storm damage and burst pipes and you can be confident that you're truly winter-ready.

Disclaimer: Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.