With winter fast approaching homeowners and drivers are being reminded of the importance of preparing for the wet and icy weather. It’s hard to predict what kind of conditions we’re in for this November, December and January, but year after year the experts recommend simple precautions to prevent costly problems and disruption to our routines.
Autumn is also a good time of year to stock up on a few winter essentials and think ahead as cold snaps, heavy rain and dark nights loom.
According to research by AA Home Membership, an incredible 80% of households have suffered some kind of property damage during the winter, often caused by the weather.
The most common issue was a broken fence, which affected 41% of properties. A boiler breakdown was the second most frequent problem, which 40% had to deal with, followed by a broken radiator (26%). Almost a quarter (23%) had slipped roof tiles and nearly one in five (18%) had a needed to deal with a blocked drain. For car owners, flat batteries, sliding on ice, or having to abandon your vehicle miles from your home are just some of the headaches winter brings if you haven’t prepared for the worst.
Our top tips on getting ready for winter
Service and stock your car with essentials
Always fully service your car before the winter weather kicks in. It’s worth taking advantage of the free or discounted ‘winter car checks’ offered by some garages.
Typically this will involve checking the condition of the battery, brakes and engine, and topping up engine coolant with antifreeze. Engine coolant should be a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze, but this can become diluted over time which can lead the engine overheating and causing costly problems.
Remember to keep emergency supplies in your boot during the winter months. If you’re setting off a long journey by road, take some extra warm clothing, a blanket, a small shovel, a torch, a reflective breakdown triangle, a reflective or fluorescent jacket, a bottle of water and some cash. The AA always say avoid journeys in icy weather if they are not necessary and may be dangerous. If travel by road is unavoidable, make sure you have your breakdown membership details handy in case of any trouble.
Invest in winter tyres
Your car’s tyres need to be able to cope in cold and wet weather as they are key to both steering and braking. Before a winter car journey be sure to check your tyres for pressure and tread depth. The recommendation is a minimum of 3mm depth during the winter, compared to the legal minimum of 1.6mm, as this gives better grip.
Increasing numbers of UK motorists are changing from summer to winter tyres, in order to achieve increased grip in snow slush or ice. According to the experts, winter tyres are effective in temperatures below seven degrees Celsius, which we generally see during UK winters. The improve performance and safety in both wet and dry conditions, so it’s well worth looking into making the switch for October through to March. On a winter tyre, tread depth it starts at between 8 and 9mm, as opposed to 7 and 8mm on a regular tyre.
Check home heating and pipes
If you have your boiler serviced annually by a qualified Gas Service Engineer in the early autumn, you’re more likely to make it though the winter without a traumatic breakdown of your central heating system.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that during the autumn and winter months your home is at the greatest risk of water related damage caused by burst or leaky pipes. Check that your home insurance is up to date and take some preventative steps. Make sure your water pipes and water tank are insulated wherever possible especially if they are outside or in the loft. Check that you know where your stop tap is so you can quickly switch the water off if the pipe bursts.
Insurers also recommend checking the overflows on your toilets, water tanks and central heating header tanks, also ensuring any ballcock valves are in good working order.
If you’ve recently spotted drips or leaks on your taps or radiators make sure these problems are fixed immediately,
Secure your windows, roof and fencing
Poor insulation leads to high heating bills over the winter, and gaps in windows and around doors can lead to damp and long term damage. It’s worth working on window frames that are lose and liable to allow rain through in stormy weather, and to make sure gutters are clear of leaves and muck. Another essential is to repair loose or missing tiles or slates on your roof.
Wintry weather really can be a menace to our homes so if you’re aware of anything around your property that needs to be fixed then now is the time to do it. A gale can easily whip away a loose fence panel, unsecured gate or dodgy guttering. Don’t leave patio furniture or other freestanding equipment in the garden to the mercy of the wind and rain!
If you’re lucky enough to have a wood-burning stove or open fireplace in your home, it pays to stock up early on logs and follow a few simple recommendations.
Firstly make sure that your fuel has been dried properly. You can find green wood and dry it yourself, if you’ve got the space to dry your logs properly, but do bear in mind that you’ll need to give your logs at least one summer to dry properly. Secondly spend some time finding a good supplier of logs. The best way of finding a good log supplier is to go through an accreditation scheme such as Woodsure, which audits whether the logs really are as dry as the supplier claims.
Another option is to buy kiln dried logs or briquettes. These materials are less eco-friendly as energy has been used to dry the fuel before it reaches you, although some suppliers do use wood-fired kilns. It can be more expensive, but is probably the simplest, way of fuelling a stove.