Winter jobs to tackle around the home

publication date: Jan 22, 2015
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

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Winter jobs to tackle around the home!


When it’s cold and wet outside and all your instincts are to wrap up warm and stay indoors, it’s a good time to tackle some of those maintenance jobs that you don’t fancy doing when the sun is shining and calling you outdoors.

Preparing your home for the winter
It’s ideal if you start before the really cold and damp weather sets in. Preparing your home to withstand the worst the winter can throw at it saves time, money and inconvenience and also gives you peace of mind. Nobody wants a burst pipe or dodgy boiler at the coldest time of year! So, where do you start?

Read - Maintaining your property checklist

Check your central heating system
It needn’t take long to do and could save you from the horrors of a freezing home at the coldest time of year. One of the most common problems is cold or partially cold radiators, which usually means there’s air in the system. Gurgling sounds from your radiators are generally a good indicator. The simplest solution is to bleed the radiators to improve their efficiency or, if that doesn’t work, it may be that there’s a build-up of sludge or silt in the system. DIY stores stock sludge remover for around £37, so this is a job that you can tackle yourself, although you may prefer to call in a professional as it can be a bit of a messy operation. If your downstairs radiators are cold, then it could mean that your pump is broken, in which case you’ll need to call a plumber in. Otherwise it may be a case of just partially closing the valve so that hot water gets to all of your radiators.

Dealing with leaky radiators is a bit trickier. While you can repair it yourself, it’s generally best done by a registered plumber. As always, when dealing with heating problems, make sure you get a Gas Safe Register qualified engineer (go to to deal with them.

Read - Maintaining your property checklist

Stop burst or frozen pipes before they start
Insulation is the key to keeping your pipes from seizing up during really cold spells. This is something you can do well ahead of the winter and can save you all the mess, upset, insurance claims and the like that go along with a burst pipe. Another way of keeping out the cold is to keep your heating running on low at night, and also if you’re planning to be away for a few days. It’s amazing how many householders have no idea where to find the stopcock! So make sure you’ve located yours in case of an emergency. Finally, check your pipes regularly and keep up maintenance through the year so there are no nasty surprises during the winter months.

Read - Maintaining your property checklist

Draught-proofing and energy efficiency
Blocking draughts can make you warmer and save on heating, so it’s an easy way of making life more comfortable at little cost. Doors and windows are the main culprits, although it’s worth checking loft hatches and pipes that lead outside to see if you can improve insulation. Draught excluders are relatively cheap compared to the savings they’ll bring. The byword here is ‘padding’; insulate as much as you can, and that includes pipes and hot water tanks – a water tank jacket costs around £10 but will save you £20 per year on your heating bill. It may seem trivial, but just switching off lights can save you a few more pounds per year, as does switching off computers, televisions and all electronic equipment as keeping them on standby guzzles energy and bumps up your bill. Energy-saving lights use 80% less power than conventional bulbs too. Finally, just turning down your thermostat by 1 degree saves around £40 on your annual heating bill.

It’s worth checking out energy grants to see if you can get some help to finance cavity wall, floor, loft or water-tank insulation. If you live in England, look up Warm Front grants; in Scotland, there’s The Energy Assistance Package; in Northern Ireland, look out for the Warm Homes Scheme; and there are solar and wind power grants to be had by UK residents.

Read - Maintaining your property checklist

Plan for emergencies
As a final thought, it’s always good to think ahead and anticipate the worst so that you can deal with problems fast. Simple tasks like getting the boiler serviced, clearing gutters, sweeping chimneys and locating the stopcock can prevent problems arising or, at worst, help you deal with emergencies quickly and efficiently. A ‘power-cut kit’, containing torches, fresh batteries, a small calor-gas burner for heating kettles, a space blanket, and perhaps some treats to keep morale up, is handy to have all together in one place should your home suddenly lose power.

Read - Maintaining your property checklist

Homeserve Tool
The chaps at Homeserve are making it a bit easier to work out whether you have a problem or not with their new on-line tool which you can view free of charge.

Their interactive house shows how you can sort out the simple jobs which can avoid insurance claims and more importantly a drain on your time as it’s unlikely you’ll want to spend it filling in forms!

Examples of help available includes:-

  1. Unblocking drains

  2. Fixing cold radiators

  3. Draught proofing

  4. Protecting pipes from freezing or bursting

  5. Making sure your roof is wind and water tight

Read - Why fix the roof while the sun isn't shining?

For more information on making sure your home remains wind and water tight this winter, visit our articles and checklists:-

All our information is brought to you by Kate Faulkner, author of Which? Property books and one of the UK's top property experts.
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