Taking the right precautions
As a high value home insurance policyholder, you’ll be covered against the financial losses sometimes caused by the fickle fingers of frost and the wicked winds of winter.
Comforting as insurance is, there’s nevertheless no substitute for taking a few precautions before the onset of winter. That way – no matter how tight Jack Frost’s grip may be – you and your property can weather the worst of the weather with equanimity.
For example, if you keep your central heating on constantly, you will cut down the likelihood of frozen or burst pipes. If you set it at a low temperature when you’re away for a short time, or turn the water off at the mains if you’re away for longer, it will help.
Aside from these simple precautions, it’s a good idea to have all the water pipes, tanks and cisterns in your home insulated, especially in unheated areas such as lofts, outbuildings and under floor spaces. Fixing dripping taps also helps. It’s surprising how a gentle trickle of water can freeze and then completely block a pipe.
Tackling a frozen pipe
If you do discover a frozen pipe, you should turn off the water at the mains and turn off the stopcock that feeds your cold water tank, if you have one. It’s important to protect everything around the frozen pipe, to avoid any collateral damage if it bursts. Gently warm the frozen pipe with a hairdryer or hot water bottle, then open the tap nearest the frozen pipe and begin thawing the pipe from the tap side of the frozen area.
If a pipe or tank should burst, turn off the water at the main stopcock and switch off all central heating and other water heating systems. Let all the water in the system drain out, by turning on all the taps, and then engage a reliable plumber to carry out the repairs. If you don’t have a regular plumber, most of the water companies operate approved plumber schemes. One of their people should be able to help you.
Storm force precautions
The risk of storm damage can be reduced by securing any loose roof tiles, guttering or external pipe work and replacing any parts of the system that are broken, before the winter. It’s also a good idea to put any moveable items such as garden furniture into store as they could either be damaged themselves or cause damage to other things by being blown about by high winds. Another wise precaution is the removal of any loose branches from the trees around your property and the secure fixing of any loose fencing. If you live in a particularly large building, or in an exposed area, it’s advisable to have a lightning conductor installed.
Finally, it’s a very good idea to replace any cracked windowpanes before the weather turns cold, as putty takes a long time to dry in chill conditions.
Before the flood
If you live in an area that’s prone to flooding, or if weather reports suggest floods are heading your way, there are some simple steps you can take to make sure you’re prepared.
Keep the doors and windows shut and move anything of value – indeed, as much of everything as you can – upstairs. Place sandbags around the perimeter of your house, especially in front of doorways and places where water could seep in. Prepare an emergency kit, in case you are trapped or need to evacuate your home. This should include blankets, torches, waterproof clothing, a supply of food and water and a first aid kit. Make sure you know how to turn off the electricity and gas supplies so that you can do so in the dark, if necessary.
Finally, you should prepare a list of important emergency telephone and mobile numbers, including any emergency help-lines provided by your local water company and your insurance company.
If you’d like to know about preparing for a flood, please go to http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk where you’ll find plenty of useful advice and information.