Protecting your home from the winter elements

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors is advising people to prepare their homes for winter and stop the predicted harsh weather from taking its toll on their property, heating and maintenance bills.

RICS say that properties are vulnerable to attack both from the outside elements and the moist, warm conditions that build-up inside during the winter months.

Roy Ilott, a chartered building surveyor and spokesman for RICS, says: “The outside of a house takes a battering in the winter so a realistic, 360 degree assessment of its current condition is advisable think roof, walls, floors, windows and doors and repair, seal or insulate where possible.

“But letting a property breath the warm air out is as important as stopping the cold air from coming in. Todays lifestyle of showers, washing up, periodic short bouts of heating throughout the day and a lack of ventilation can lead to a build-up of what amounts to litres of water daily that forms condensation and damp on window sills, furniture and walls.

“This problem can be prevented by simply opening the windows every now and then. Unfortunately security and ventilation are conflicting requirements.”

RICS advise people to inspect their roofs and replaced any cracked tiles, and fitting unused chimney pots with ventilated cowls to protect their homes.

They should also check loft insulation is in good condition. However, it is important that the tanks and pipes in the loft do not freeze, so people shouldnt insulate below the tank. The cold-water tank should be fitted with a lid.

Gutters and drains should be kept clear of leaves and debris, especially the gulleys, because overflowing can drench walls and cause damage.

33% of heat lost in the home is through the walls, so cavity wall insulation is a good option.

In very cold weather water on external paving will freeze, so paving should be well drained to stop water collecting, freezing and causing accidents.

Decking can also be a problem, if it obstructed air bricks and gulleys.

The perimeters of all windows should be checked to make sure water flows away from glass and doesnt collect on the sill, or drain behind it. It is important to minimize drafts so if double-glazing is not in place (it cuts heat loss through windows by 50%), consider fitting cheaper options such as secondary glazing or put polythene across the window frames. Curtains can also make a big difference to heat loss.

Letterboxes can be fitted with a cover and door frames protected with a sealant to stop drafts entering the home. Rugs can also reduce drafts in properties with stripped floors.

Finally, its Important to check the heating system is in order; service boilers, insulate hot water tanks and bleed radiators.