Spring is here – time to storm-proof your home

Over 50s insurer, SunLife, offers their advice on storm-proofing your home.

There are more weather-related home insurance claims in the winter than at any other time of year but, as the UK battles its fourth storm of 2018, with record winds, plunging temperatures and ‘danger to life’ alerts for snow and ice, Simon Stanney, General Insurance Director at SunLife, offers his advice:

Simon said: “Prevention is always better than cure and although there is nothing we can do about the weather, there are steps we can take to make sure our homes are protected, and our family, friends and neighbours are safe.”

Put your heating on a timer: “Letting your home get too cold and then suddenly putting the heating on is not good for your home. Pipes may thaw too quickly after freezing which can cause them to burst, it can also cause damp on ceilings and walls through condensation. If you have a thermostat, set your heating to come on if the house temperature falls below a certain level. If not, set a timer so the heating comes on at regular intervals. 

Insulate your pipes: “One of the most common problems homeowners suffer in the winter is burst pipes.  Insulating pipes and any water tanks reduces the risk of pipes freezing or bursting. You should also make sure you fix any dripping taps because even a small trickle of water, particularly from an outdoor tap, can freeze and completely block the pipe.”

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Get a boiler service:  “Get your boiler serviced –if your boiler breaks, a new one can be very costly. Not to mention the problems caused when you are left with no heating or hot water over the winter period,” he warns.

Find your stopcock: “If you don’t already know where your stopcock is - this is the valve that turns the cold water system in your home on and off – make sure you locate it now because, if anything happens to your water supply such as a burst pipe, this is where it can be turned off to stop the house from flooding,” says Simon. “It is usually under the sink in the kitchen. If you don’t know, ask a neighbour – they will generally be in the same place in other houses in the same road – or ask a plumber.”

Check your roof, gutters and drains: “You may be able to check from your loft for any broken, dislodged or missing roof tiles.  The weight of the snow may make the problem worse.

If you have a chimney, make sure it is clean and check the lead flashings (where the chimney meets the roof) to ensure it is properly sealed. You should also check your gutters and drains – when the snow melts, you want to avoid blockages from leaves and other debris to minimise the risk of water damage.

You should also make sure they are all aligned and the bottom of the pipe is facing away from your property – you don’t want to end up with water running down your house.”

Cut back trees: "Heavy winds and snow cover can cause fences and trees to fall, so make sure you repair any unsafe fences or walls and cut back any trees that are close to the house. If you think they pose a real danger, it may be worth arranging a professional to do this for you.”

Check on family, friends and neighbours:  “Although the supermarket shelves are surprisingly bare, family, friends and neighbours will almost certainly value your offer to run a few errands.  Create a real sense of community by clearing the paths and drives, especially of elderly neighbours."

Check your policy: "Make sure you know who to call in a home emergency – your home insurer should cover weather-related damage and most have 24-hour emergency helplines where they can offer help, advice and arrange for any repairs that need to be carried out.”

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