Given the decline in temperature and the cries of “ARCTIC STORMS!!!” that currently adorn the front pages of our fair countries tabloids, you’d think that winter had already arrived with force. However, despite that that one annoying person you know who keeps saying “It’s winter you know, that’s why it’s freezing!” it isn’t actually winter yet. That doesn’t stop many people believing that the arrival of December also heralds the arrival of winter, but technically the astronomical season of winter won’t arrive until 21 December. Still, there are two reasons why you should already be preparing your home for winter.
- Christmas is coming and we’re already focused on the task of buying presents and putting up the trimmings.
- The weather is already getting cold and wet outside so we don’t need to wait for the reason to actually begin!
The first reason is probably prolonged by eating too much Christmas food; food that wasn’t supposed to be opened until Christmas Day, but who can resist that giant tub of Quality Street? The second reason is the one that makes all this preparation important. You not only want to be warm and comfortable in your homes, but leaving over things incomplete could lead to problems like damp and other things that you’re still going to have to do some day – so you might as well get them done now.
With all that in mind we’ve put together a guide that covers pretty much everything you should be doing to prepare your home for winter. As Ned Stark put it “winter is coming” but are you ready?
Clean out the guttering: Get those gutters cleaned of all the gunk that’s built up in there over the months. Ideally you want to check your gutters at least twice a year, but if you haven’t done it yet then checking them before the onset of winter is a priority. The bad weather will bring about even more leaves and other rubbish that can clog them up and lead to overflowing (which is something you really don’t want to happen). While you’re at it you should check for any leaks or damage that could have occurred over the year – winter is a time when you really want you gutters working to their full potential.
Check the roof: While you’re up there eyeing the gutters you may as well glance over the roof too. Check for any damage where water could be creeping in and warm air escaping. Also look for any loose or missing tiles that can be replaced before the first snowflake winds its way down the ground of our fair land. If you’ve got a felt felt roof then be sure to take a look at our guide on how to check the condition of a flat felt roof.
Check the drains: In a similar vein to your guttering you should also check to make sure any outside drains and grilles to ensure that there’s no debris, such as a glob of leaves, blocking it from functioning properly. After removing any visible debris, throw some hot water out there so that the pressure will shift anything else in there.
Clean up outside footpaths and patios: Shift any dirt and debris (such as leaves) from these places so it will look a bit prettier but also be safer to work on. I tend to give my patio a blast with a power washer before winter sets in. The concrete will inevitably become dirty again throughout winter, but at least it won’t be absolutely caked in grime by the time spring rolls around.
Clean all windows: If you have a window cleaner regularly coming to your property (as I do) then at least the outside of windows won’t be your concern, although you still have to wash the inside of windows yourself. Clear as crystal windows during winter will give you as much natural light as possible, but leave them dirty and the grime will affect the cheery winter atmosphere we should all crave.
Check to see if trees need trimming: All those leaves are coming from somewhere, so if you’ve got some trees on your property have a look to see if they can be trimmed back a bit from your home to lessen the problem. This sort of job is best left to a tree surgeon.
Wipe your boots and head inside!
Get your boiler looked at: Boilers that haven’t been regularly maintained will waste money and energy. More importantly, they can be dangerous and leak carbon monoxide (it’s always a good idea to have a carbon monoxide detector near your boiler, just in case). Get your boiler serviced by a Gas Safe Registered engineer before winter. While you’re at you should ensure that any carbon monoxide detectors or smoke alarms in your house are in full working order.
Got a wood burning fireplace or stove?
You need a chimney sweep. No, they won’t just come and do a little dance in your home (well, maybe they will if you ask really nicely) and, despite popular belief, the chimney sweep is still a job that some people have. In fact, they are becoming even more popular due to the rise in people heating their homes via natural wood burning means rather than paying expensive gas bills.
Check radiators and bleed if required: You may begin to notice that the radiators in your home are colder at the top then they are in the bottom. This means that there’s trapped air in there that is blocking the heat from completing its circulation properly. I tend to check them every few months, just to ensure that the radiators are doing the job to their full potential. All you need is a radiator key and towel to catch any excess water that drips out after you’ve let all the trapped air hiss from it. It’s a job that anyone can do. It’s also worth checking the pressure on your boiler too (although the service will catch this it’s an easy fix for you to do), as low pressure below the recommended amount will be contributing to the problem.
Ensure you’ve got good insulation: It’s worth giving your home the once over to ensure that the insulation is adequate enough to see your home through the winter; do you have wall cavity insulation? If the loft needs insulating then now is the time to do it, as all that lost heat will just be a big waste of heat and money. Make sure to lag water tanks and pipes around the home too. You should also remember to check under the sink in the kitchen and bathroom to insulate areas there. Lagging around pipes will ensure that they stay warm, insulating the pipes to prevent freezing – and burst water pipes!
Check for draughts: Give your home a thorough inspection to see if there is anywhere that the cold air from outside could be creeping its way into your humble hovel. Particularly check the edges of doors and the caulking around windows for draughts; sealing with up with draught excluders or self-adhesive draught strips if you find any gaps. You can even make one yourself; my partners granddad had created a draught excluder out of a rolled up piece of old carpet and it works wonders to block the cold air coming in from the inner entryway to our home.
There can also be hidden leaks in areas where pipes, vents and electrical conduits come through the wall. Small gaps can be plugged with caulking.
Ensure you’re getting the right value for money with your energy supplier: Winter bills will be higher for gas and electricity, but some of the things above should help reduce things like gas bills due to a lower loss of heat. However, if you do feel like you’re paying too much then it won’t hurt to look elsewhere. There are comparison websites that will show you the best deal you could be getting in your area, while contacting a supplier directly could get you a better deal too. You could even try negotiating with your current supplier to see if there is any way of reducing your bill or changing tariff – you might be amazed at just how much you can save!
We’ve also previously published a guide to saving money on gas and electricity during the winter.
That covers pretty much everything we can think of about preparing your home for winter, but, as usual, we welcome extra additions from our readers if you think there’s something we missed. Once you’ve got all this sorted you can grab a hot chocolate, sit down and put your feet up in front of a nice cosy fire. Sounds like heaven!