Winter is coming, and that means you need to get your home in tip top condition to cope with the weather to come – particularly as much of the UK is on course to be hammered by torrential rain and gale force winds over the next few days. Are you prepared?
Research from Policy Expert shows that one in 10 Brits have had to make a claim due to storm-related damage in the past, and with the average claim standing at £905, it's certainly worth making sure you're as ready as possible for the storms that could come.
However, 14% of those surveyed admitted they wouldn't know what to do if a water pipe burst, and while nearly one in four are confident they could fix it themselves, three-quarters admitted they'd have to call in an expert to repair the damage. Yet these experts can cost far more than many people think – respondents underestimate the cost of an emergency plumber by nearly £30 per hour, estimating that it costs an average of £63 an hour, whereas it's actually more like £90.
This additional expenditure can further inflate the cost of storm damage, which makes it even more important to ensure your home is in the best possible condition. Yet despite this, few are prepared; additional figures from the insurance provider revealed that 70% of respondents don't check that their pipes are insulated, which means they're risking freezing and burst pipes in the cold weather, while 35% don't check that their boiler is working correctly, something that could cost a lot to fix if it breaks down.
Another two-thirds of households don't check their roof for loose tiles, which could lead to damage during bad weather and even flooding, and 54% don't clear the guttering of their homes, again risking costly damage should they become blocked. And what about insurance? If the worst were to happen, the right policy could at least ensure you needn't pay for the damage out of your own pocket, yet not everyone gives this the attention it deserves, either.
"It's essential people are aware of the potential costly damage a storm could throw at them this winter," said Adam Powell, head of Operations at Policy Expert. "Cold and stormy weather can ravage buildings and pipes, so we would urge all homeowners not only to protect their homes, but to invest a bit of time and money in ensuring you have the correct level of home insurance.
"For example, 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. It's also important to remember that your home insurance policy isn't a maintenance policy. If a problem has been caused or exaggerated by general wear and tear, or poor upkeep of your property, it's highly likely you won't be covered – so make sure you're taking the necessary precautions just in case."
As Adam points out, it's a good idea to give your home a winter once-over before the weather worsens too much, preventing any nasty surprises. After all, "an unexpected storm or sudden boiler breakdown can quickly turn into an expensive ordeal", so why run the risk? Follow Policy Expert's top tips to make sure your home is as protected as possible from the winter weather that's on the way.
Check your boiler and heating system.
Your boiler should be serviced on a regular basis, so if you haven't done so already this year, now's the time to get it checked by a Gas Safe registered plumber.
Give your roof a visual check to look for any cracked, missing or loose tiles, and if you spot any damage, make sure to replace them. A damaged roof could be hazardous in high winds or under mounds of snow, so always check beforehand.
Repair damaged chimneys
Similar to the above – look for loose render and cracks around chimney pots as winter weather can damage chimneys even further, so you'll want to make sure they're properly stable. At the same time, check the pointing and brickwork of external walls, and repair if necessary.
Keep the central heating on.
You may think it's cheaper to turn the heating off when you're not there, but you'll want to keep it on a minimum level at all times throughout the winter months (at least 14C is recommended) to help prevent pipes freezing.
Insulate pipes and water tanks
Another way to prevent frozen pipes is to insulate those in exposed areas, and the same applies to water tanks.
Check window frames for damage and fill any cracks if needed, and you may even want to put another coat of paint on the window sill; untreated wood can expand and rot in wet weather and extreme temperatures, so treating it before winter can prevent unnecessary damage.
Guttering and drains
Clear drains and guttering of debris (such as leaves, mud and stones) to prevent blockages and subsequent freezing.
Fuse box and electrics
Policy Expert says that a home's electrics are a major source of insurance claims, so if it's been a while since it was last checked, get a registered electrician in to check the box and wiring.
Get the right home insurance!
This can provide valuable peace of mind, so don't leave it too late – there'd be nothing worse than needing to make a claim only to find that you weren't sufficiently covered, so check the small print so you know exactly what you're covered for. If you could do with a bit of extra cover, speak to your provider to see if it can be added, or if it's time to renew, use our home insurance quote tool to find a policy that can provide exactly what you need.
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.