The weather is definitely getting cooler with the onset of autumn now is the time to start preparing your home for those even colder winter days and nights.
Whether you’re away from your home a lot, a landlord with a gap in the tenancy, own a holiday home or are just travelling for a while, it’s best to start thinking about making your property winter-proof.
No matter if your property is in Powys, Shropshire, Ceredigion or Gwynedd, the same will need to be done.
We’ve teamed up with the Guild of Property Professionals to offer some top tips to winter-proof your home or empty property.
Start with the outside
Starting with the outside, make sure general maintenance regimes are up to date, and that any necessary repairs have been carried out before winter arrives. A poorly maintained roof that collapses under the weight of heavy snow can easily run into five figures to put right.
Begin by clearing the gutters which, by autumn will be full of leaves, moss and other debris. Left undealt with, this can result in weeping joints and overflowing or sagging gutters, causing water damage and damp issues.
Next, check the roof to ensure that roof coverings are intact without any missed, slipped or damaged tiles that could become dislodged in bad weather. Pay particular attention to mortar beds and joints to the ridge tiles as any deterioration and dislocation here could allow rainwater into the roof space.
Don't forget the heating or frozen pipes
Once the cold season has passed, it’s good practice to check over everything again, just in case the winter weather has caused any new damage that now needs addressing.
One of the biggest issues with an unattended property is the risk of water damage. Even the smallest leak can, over time, do untold damage to your furniture, furnishings and entire interiors. It can even cause structural damage to the building.
Water damage is often caused by burst pipes in winter, so keeping the house warm enough to avoid frozen pipes in the first place is the most important job.
Service your boiler annually to make sure that it can be safely left on over the winter, and check that all radiators are working properly.
Set the heating to come on daily for a few hours morning and night to prevent the water in the pipes from freezing.
Keep the thermostat on a low temperature. 12-14 degrees should be sufficient to get warm air circulating.
Open the loft hatch and cupboard doors under the sink to encourage warmer air to flow into these areas and protect your pipes.
Any exposed, vulnerable pipework (external, in the loft or garage) should be adequately lagged and the installation of frost protection systems considered.
In case of emergencies, you should familiarise yourself with the exact location of the stopcock for your mains water supply to the property – often found in the kitchen under the sink, or in the garage. Check periodically that the stopcock can be operated easily, and share its location with a trusted neighbour, local friend or property agent.
Drain the central heating system
If you prefer not to pay utility bills for an unoccupied property through the winter, an alternative is to drain down the plumbing and heating system. t’s not a fool proof solution since some water may remain trapped in parts of the system, but any damage should be limited.
External taps should be turned off securely, hose pipes disconnected, and the tap covered with an insulated cap or box. It is important to eliminate any risk of outside taps dripping since these are most at risk of freezing.
If you choose to shut down the heating system for the winter, be warned that the cold building might be more susceptible to condensation, which can lead to mould and mildew deposits, and cause damp issues in the longer term.