Winter Weather Property Advice

Published 19 December 2011

RICS is encouraging householders and businesses to be aware of the damaging effects of the treacherous weather conditions to their property.

Property experts recommend that people who are spending the Christmas holidays away from home should be careful to protect their property from any potential damage that the weather may bring. For example, making sure water is turned off at the mains can help prevent frozen pipes from bursting.

Businesses should also take stock of their heating settings should the office be empty over the Christmas and new year period. Having the heating come on periodically, albeit lower than when occupied, will help keep the cold away from pipes and expensive IT equipment.

The potential fallout of the extreme weather conditions may not be fully realised until the snow and ice has melted, when it could reveal areas which need improving or repairing – especially if weather conditions worsen yet again.

The exterior of a property will take a battering during these extremely harsh weather conditions. So once the snow and ice has cleared up, a 360-degree assessment of its condition is advisable – think roof, walls, floors, windows and doors. These need to be improved and repaired by sealing and insulating better where possible, ready for further freezing weather conditions.

Keith Denholm, Allied Surveyors Scotland and RICS Scotland Residential Property Professional Group Chair

But it is not just the exterior of a building that can be damaged by sub-zero temperatures.

Letting a property breathe warm air out is just as important as stopping cold air from coming in. Today’s lifestyle of showers, washing up, periodic short bouts of heating throughout the day and lack of ventilation can lead to a build-up of what amounts daily to litres of water which forms condensation and damp on windows, walls, floors and ceilings. This problem can be reduced by simply opening the windows every now and then.

RICS recommends that householders carry out a winter property audit once the weather improves and, if at all concerned, to ask a chartered surveyor for advice and use professional trade people to carry out repairs.

Areas that need to be covered are:

Inspect the roof and replace any cracked tiles
If chimney pots are in place but not in use, consider protecting them by fitting ventilated cowls
Inspect the flashings around chimney stacks and at abutments – replace defective ones and re-fix any that are loose.

Check the insulation is in good condition and that there are no areas where insulation is missing
Avoid over insulating as it is important that the tanks and pipes in the loft do not freeze, so do not insulate below the tank and make sure the lid is on the cold-water tank.

Clear away any leftover twigs/leaves and debris – take particular care that the gulleys are clear as overflowing gutters can drench walls and cause damage
Check for signs of leaking gutters and rainwater pipes.

33 percent of heat lost in the home is through the walls – cavity wall insulation is a good option
Check the pointing – frost can play havoc with poorly maintained walls
Make sure water can run off the property; fill gaps to cement angle fillets at wall junctions.

Check perimeters of all windows to make sure water flows away from glass and doesn’t collect on the sill, or drain behind it
It is important to minimise drafts – if double-glazing is not in place (it cuts heat loss through windows by 50 percent), consider fitting cheaper options such as secondary glazing or put polythene across the window frames
Curtains can make a big difference to heat loss.

Stop draughts through letterboxes by fitting a cover, and put a sealant around the door frames.

Floor boards
If there are stripped floors in place, consider putting down rugs in the winter to reduce draughts up between the boards.

Heating systems
Check your heating system is in order: service boilers, insulate hot water tanks, bleed radiators
Make sure that climbing plants, shrubs and bushes do not object boiler flues – if this is the case, the boiler should be inspected immediately by a specialist.
These simple tasks will not only help householders keep warmer during any more harsh weather conditions, but they will significantly reduce soaring energy bills and can be undertaken safely in the home.

However, it is essential to seek the advice of reputable building professionals when looking to complete larger jobs. For advice on how much to pay for home improvements, the RICS Property Makeover Guide provides a good indication on how much you should pay.

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