How to prepare your home and garden for winter

By Bob Atoo
November 11, 2014

The clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in which means one thing – winter is coming. Our winter clothes come out. The coats, the hats, the scarves. We prepare ourselves for the cold weather. But what is often overlooked, is preparing our home and garden for the winter weather.

Lots can go wrong in and around the house because of the dip in temperature and the winter conditions, so it is important to do everything you can to prevent these things happening.

Here is our guide on how to prepare your home and garden for winter:

Prepare home for winter

Preparing your home

Burst pipes

Severe weather in the winter months can have a devastating effect on the heating and drainage systems in your home. The sub-zero temperatures can freeze water in pipes and tanks which will expand, causing them to burst.

The damage from burst pipes can vary, but repairs will be costly. In worst case scenarios, a large amount of water could leak causing a flood. If a household flood isn’t noticed and resolved soon, for example if you were away from home, water could seep into the skirting boards and could even trigger the collapse of ceilings.

Below are steps you can take to help protect your pipes during the winter:

  • You should insulate your loft, cold water storage tank and pipes in the attic. They are the most at risk of bursting as they are the most exposed.
  • If there are any small gaps in the walls where television, cable and telephone lines come through, you should seal them up to prevent cold air coming through.
  • If you are going away for a few days – maybe to visit family over the Christmas period – it is a good idea to set your central heating to come on for a few hours each day at a minimum of 15 degrees.
  • If you are going away for a longer period of time, for example by having a week of sunshine in the Canaries to beat those January blues, it may be worth draining your system completely.
  • Getting a friend or neighbour to check your house every now and again if you are away is ideal as it will give you peace of mind.

Taking the above precautions will help you protect yourself and your home from burst pipe damage. However, it is important to remember that there are sometimes accidents which are unavoidable. To ensure you are covered if anything were to happen, you should make sure you have sufficient home insurance.

Frost damage

In the winter months we are often graced with a picturesque, crisp frost when we wake up. But these frosts can have a damaging impact on our homes, particularly the exterior.

There is no way to avoid the frost, but there are things you can do to lessen the impact the frost has on your house.

Here are our tips to do so:

  • Keep gutters clear from leaves, twigs and dirt. This should be done in preparation for the winter and before the cold weather sets in. you should give all guttering a thorough clean after clearing them out. Running water through will allow you to see if there are any blockages to clear or leaks to repair.

It is important to maintain a clear and clean guttering as if it gets blocked, water has to find an alternative way to escape. This means water will run down the exterior of your house. Water alone can do damage to bricks but once the frost sets in, it can make matters worse.

  • Check the paintwork on the outside of your house. If frost were to get in and/or underneath any crack or loose paint, you could have a much bigger problem on your hands.
  • Before the temperature dips and the bad weather begins, you should inspect your roof. Look out for missing tiles, cracked tiles and general wear and tear. All three of these things can affect how watertight your roof is. If any repairs need doing, getting them done before the weather is too severe is a must.

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More tips for preparing your home for winter…

Along with the above, there are more things you should do around your house to get ready for the winter weather. Some things are quick, easy and can be done in no time at all. But others can take a while longer and could even cost a little money. However all of our tips will help to protect your home from potential problems during the winter.

  • Open fires – if you are lucky enough to have an open fire in your home, you should give it a thorough clean before using it again. Look inside the chimney for build-up of dirt or any bird’s nests. Check the brickwork on the outside of the chimney for any cracks or damage, and if there is any, get them repaired. You should do this every year before winter comes around, but you should also have your fire and chimney professionally cleaned every other year.
  • Radiators – you should bleed all the radiators in your home by opening the valve to let the air out. Doing this will make them work more efficiently.
  • Garage – you should spend a little time and organise your garage for the winter. Anything you know you won’t be using for the next few months should be stored at the back and off the ground. Try to keep as much as you can from the floor of your garage and they will be the most likely to get damaged in situations like floods.
  • Windows – if you have drafty windows, you should seal them to keep the heat in. This will also help to lower your energy bills. You can seal any cracks by caulking them.
  • Smoke alarms – check your smoke alarms (and any others) are working properly. If the batteries need changing, do so. This should be done throughout the year and not just at winter time.

Prepare garden for winter

Preparing your garden

As well as preparing your house for the winter weather, you should also get your garden ready for the elements coming its way.

When spring comes around, your garden will be in a much better state if you invest a bit of time in preparing it for winter.

Here are our top tips on how to do this:

  • Mow the lawn – Mowing the lawn in cold, wet and windy weather is not ideal and not easy! You should give your lawn one last mow before winter sets in. Giving your lawn some fertiliser is also a good idea as come spring time, it’ll be healthy and look brand new.
  • Look after your tools – If you are not someone who wishes to get your fingers green in the winter months (believe it or not – some people do!), then you should make sure you store your garden tools well. By keeping them in a safe and dry place, for example a shed or garage, they will not get damaged by the winter weather.

Regarding your lawn mower, now is a good time to give it a service and get blades sharpened if needed. This saves you the job when the weather warms up. If you have a petrol mower, you should empty its tank before storing it.

  • Protect your greenery – Whether you have need trees that are just beginning to flourish, or big old trees that have been there for years, you should do what you can to protect them. For small, young trees you could invest in some plastic or wire mesh to wrap around their delicate trunks. For bigger trees, bushes and hedges, you should keep them trim and cut back to avoid them getting damaged.

You should also keep on top of any weeding in your garden to make life easier when you get back out in the spring.

  • Plant your spring bulbs – The right time to plant your daffodil bulbs and other spring flowers is before the temperature drops and the ground freezes. Doing this at the right time will make for a much prettier garden when the weather warms.
  • Shield your garden furniture – The rain, wind and snow can damage your garden furniture so you should try to store it in a safe waterproof location. Furniture that is left outside are at risk of becoming ‘missiles’ in windy weather, so storing them in a shed or garage will eliminate the risk of them flying around and getting damaged and/or causing damage.
  • Check your fences and sheds – If any repairs are needed to your garden fences you should get them done before the cold weather worsens them. Check your garden shed is watertight and secure.
  • Rake the leaves – You should try to get into the habit of cleaning up the leaves in your garden each week. By doing this you will avoid a build-up of them which could cause blockages in drains. Your lawn could also be affected by getting covered in leaves as it will struggle to get sunlight and become weaker and ruined.

Prepare car for winter

Preparing your car

Your car should be maintained and looked after throughout the year, but especially in the winter as it is constantly faced with difficult conditions.

  • Tyres – You should check the condition of your tyres, in particular the tread, which is what allows them to grip the icy roads. It is recommended that your tyre depth should be a minimum of 3mm for winter conditions. You should also check your tyre pressure and put air in if need be.
  • Battery – Car battery failures are a common cause for breakdowns so investing in a battery testing device is ideal. Car batteries generally last around five years so if you are needing a new one, you’ll save money by shopping around rather than forking out in an emergency.
  • Wipers – Wipers can get damaged very easily when your windscreen is frozen so check them regularly and replace them if necessary.
  • Screen wash – Not all screen wash is the same so you should look for one that protects to a certain temperature, for example, down to -10 degrees. This will help to avoid your washer pump freezing and causing damage.
  • Oil and coolant – Checking the levels of oil and coolant should be done throughout the year and not just in winter time. With coolant, you should check that there is sufficient anti-freeze in it for over the colder months.

You should also try to get your car serviced before the seasons changed which will lessen the chance of having a breakdown.

Home insurance tips for winter

During the winter months, there is a higher risk of your house being burgled. The reason being, the nights are darker, making it easier for crimes to be committed. Also, houses are full of expensive Christmas presents which are often left unattended due to visiting family over the festive season, so thieves see these as perfect opportunities.

Below are some of our top tips on how to keep your home secure during winter:

  • Burglar alarms – investing in a burglar alarm could be extremely worthwhile, preferably a professionally monitored alarm. Not only will the alarm get the attention of yourself and/or neighbours, a burglar will be disturbed and hopefully unable to continue with the robbery.
  • Deadlocks – most modern house come with secure deadlocks on windows and doors, but if not, it is relatively cheap to add them to gain additional security.
  • Lights – there are several types of lighting systems that can be installed outside of your house to add security. Most work by having some sort of sensor which turns the light on if something is near. Having these lights around your house will act as a deterrent to potential burglars.

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