The nights have drawn in, the clocks have gone back, Christmas gifts, food and decorations have been in stores nationwide for nearly two months and now the winter weather is firmly upon us.
Property maintenance is usually the last thing on most people’s minds as we head towards the festivities, however it can pay to be proactive with your approach towards maintenance and may help avoid expensive repairs in the long run.
At AS Built Ltd we have but together this brief guide to help you get your property ready for the months ahead.
Starting from the top!
This little beauty helps keep the wind, rain and (hopefully) snow off our heads during the winter months. Any cracked or missing roof tiles, valley gutters and the like can let rain/moisture into the roof and potentially cause damp and rot. Not ideal particularly if your roof is of timber construction.
Chimneys can also cause problems, particularly if they are not in use. Make sure you have any wood or coal burning flues swept out and consider fitting ventilated cowls or chimney balloons to any open flues. Also check the condition of lead flashings.
Many of the issues caused by damp and rot from poorly maintained roofs may well invalidate any insurance claims, so it is always wise to check regularly. If you are unable to check yourself, ask a professional to come and have a look for you.
GUTTERS AND DRAINS
Rain and moisture is directed from the roof into your gutters, and if they and the drains are not clear, it doesn’t take long for overflowing gutters and damp issues to become prevalent. Sodden brickwork dries at around 2mm a day at best, and in winter with low temperatures, it may not dry at all. It doesn’t take long for the damp to take affect and it will also affect the brickwork pointing and windows, especially timber ones. The continual expansion process of freezing water can wreak havoc if moisture gets into the crevices in and around windows and brickwork.
Leaves and other debris can soon clog gutters – clear them out, especially the outlets and gulleys, to ensure the water is flowing away from your property. Consider installing leaf-guards. Leaking joints should also be sealed, there are a vast array of products on the market for sealing joints and gutters that can be applied to wet guttering to seal any leaks.
A good clear out and check for leaks is an essential for winter.
So you have cleared your guttering, installed leaf-guards, cleared out the gulleys, sealed any leaking joints and now you don’t need to worry about your walls.
That is not entirely correct, water can also penetrate the walls via “driving-rain”. This is usually more prevalent on certain elevations of your building that are greater exposed to the elements. The first thing you should check is the pointing, are they any cracks, gaps that water/moisture could penetrate? These need raking out and re-pointing to ensure their integrity. This is something a competent DIY enthusiast should be able to undertake, however if you are unsure, employ a professional for peace of mind. You should also check any expansion joints and the like to ensure the integrity of the sealant. Also check decorative stone cills, heads and the like around doors and windows along with any lead flashings/abutments.
WINDOWS AND DOORS
So your roof is watertight, your gutters are flowing nicely, you have re-pointed that suspect bit of brickwork, time to crack open a bottle of red.
Wait, have you checked your windows and doors?
It is wise to check windows and doors to ensure that water is flowing away from the glazing and isn’t collecting on the cill or running behind it. Have you checked the sealant around the frame? This may need replacing if it has weathered and its integrity looks suspect.
Are your window or door frames timber? Do they need a bit of TLC? It is amazing what a bit of epoxy repair and a good few coats of paint can achieve. Much cheaper than replacing a whole window or door that has rotted through.
Draughty? Consider upgrading to double glazing or installing secondary glazing. Even a nice pair of curtains can make a huge difference to heat loss. Don’t forget to fit that internal cover onto your letterbox too!
Ventilation – trickle vents help air flow within the property and reduce the risk of damp and mould.
Rising damp – have you got a damp proof course – is it working? Injection damp proofing has reduced in cost considerable over the years – any respectable firm will be more than happy to provide a free – no obligation quotation. Ask an expert – it is only a phonecall.
Depending on your floor construction, you may find you have no issues, i.e solid concrete or suspended concrete floors. However, some properties with timber floor have issues with damp and rot, but it wise to check regardless of your floor construction, some of you may not even know what the construction is, so it is always best to check.
The first place to check is around door openings. If you have any issues with the doors, then more than likely you will have damp ingress here, check the integrity of the flooring, and try and find the source of the leak! No one wants a smell of damp over Christmas.
Consider filling any gaps in between exposed floor boards, you have an excuse to buy that lovely Persian rug you have always dreamt about now!
Consider getting professional advice if you feel you have got an serious damp ingress, floor repairs are not usually a simple fix and may indicate a more serious problem with the construction.
INSULATION, INSULATION, INSULATION
Technically, you can have too much insulation, and also insulate incorrectly, but as a general rule of thumb, the more the better.
Loft insulation – grants are available from many energy providers to help towards to cost of this. Consider increasing the thickness of your loft insulation to 450mm to keep the cold out. Don’t forget to insulate any header tanks or pipework to prevent that freezing over.
Wall Insulation – again, grants are available for help with the costs of this and there are many options available, internal, external, and wall cavity insulation. Wall insulation can drastically reduce your heating bills during the winter, and helps keep your property cooler in the winter. A reputable contractor will happily discuss the options along with the costs associated with it.
HEATING AND PIPEWORK
If there is one thing you definitely don’t want to have to deal with having just sat down to enjoy your roast turkey with all the trimmings, it is a broken boiler, or worse, a burst pipe.
Boiler service – have your boiler serviced regularly – not only does this ensure your boiler is safe and working efficiently, it also greatly reduces the risk of breakdown, which at best is an inconvenience, at worst, a ruined Christmas day meal.
Only use Gas Safe registered engineers – visit www.gassaferegister.co.uk to find a suitably qualified engineer in your area.
Pipework – check pipework, insulate where necessary, and generally items such as hot water tanks to ensure they are insulated and working correctly. Insulate external condensate pipework.
Radiators – bleed them! Such a simple task yet a radiator with trapped air will not run efficiently and can take much longer to heat a room, if at all. Remember to top up the boiler with water if necessary using the filling loop.
Frost setting – set your boiler to ensure it fires up if the temperature drops below 5 degrees Celsius – particularly important if you away from the house for numerous hours of the day or night. This will keep them pipes nice and warm and prevent freezing.
Hopefully if you followed our guide then you are now duly informed and ready for whatever the British weather throws at us. Sadly, even the most prepared can still suffer property issues during winter and beyond, but hopefully, this guide may help prevent some of the more common issues from occurring.
If you would like any further information and advice, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
AS Built Ltd