Avoiding home damage from the cold

This kind of weather makes people worry about everything from burst pipes to collapsing roofs.

It also makes my workmen fight over who gets to work in the warmest houses. But there are points to watch out for in a cold snap that could save nasty bills later, so I thought I’d pass on what I’ve noticed.

Snow is just water that’s gone solid, so problems are most likely to become visible when the melt comes.
The first area to look at is your roof. If your house is the only one in the street without snow on the roof, you have a problem: you not only have heat escaping upwards but you have cold penetrating downwards and this can cause burst pipes or tanks if they aren’t lagged well. If you don’thave decent insulation you’ll also be getting your heating bills delivered in person by the Chairman of the Gas Board.

The remedy is to get insulation fitted as soon as the snow goes. If you aren’t up to doing it yourself it’s more than worth paying to get it done. There are also grants still available in a lot of cases. But for now even a bit of emergency lagging, and wrapping up water tanks with whatever comes to hand, is better than nothing.

When water stays around for a long time it can get into brickwork and parapets and behind rendering. Then when it freezes and expands it can cause cracking. There’s not too much you can do now, but if there’s a safe way to brush snow off the roof it’s not a bad idea –  but bear in mind that snow, being basically water, is heavier than you might think. Apart from that you have to hope the insurance covers it.

Water can also seep behind slates and tiles and the gaps around flashing. If it does then it can get into joists and cause warping or rot inside. Good clean guttering ought to solve most of these problems as it moves the water off the roof quickly and I definitely recommend a good autumn gutter clean. For now, you can keep the bottoms of the gutters clean so water can flow away.

Digging snow out away from your walls helps to avoid water penetrating above the damp proof course.

If the paintwork on your windows frames is old or damaged then water loves to sneak in and rot the wood. This is one of the biggest jobs my worken have to fix in exterior decorating. It’s surprising how frames that look pretty good can be really rotten inside if the paint is bad or if the last paint job was bodged. It’s really vital when doing window frames that the workmen get out every last bit of rot. Just like dentists really, as my workmen keep telling me. 

On the plus side, paintwork that’s properly prepared using modern paints gives excellent protection and should last quite a few years, with minor touch-ups.

As I think I’ve said before, my workmen are sticklers for doing thorough preparation and  their work does last well.

Geoff Parvin

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