How To Protect Your Home in Winter
Leaving a property vacant during the winter months can be a worrying prospect. If you are planning on travelling away from home, if you are a landlord, or if you own a holiday property on the island, it is especially important to take certain measures to protect your property as the temperature begins to drop. Cover for damage due to winter weather, such as burst pipes, is included in most insurance policies, but failure to take preventative measures may invalidate your claim. It is wise, therefore, to protect your property against freezing conditions.
During the cold, dark winter months, our homes become an even more important haven. If disaster strikes it can be an emotional as well as physical upheaval, especially if your home becomes uninhabitable. If you are away from home, or own a second property, it can be very stressful to make an insurance claim and organise emergency repairs remotely.
All things considered, allowing your property to be exposed to the elements is not worth the risk. To avoid unnecessary misery and disruption this winter, follow this helpful advice from Jersey Mutual on how protect your property in freezing weather.
How can I protect my property in winter?
Protect against burst pipes
When pipes freeze, they expand and there is a risk of them bursting and flooding your property. The consequences can be devastating, causing structural damage as well as destroying home furnishings and personal belongings.
Insurance claims for escape of water due to burst pipes are very common, but it you can reduce the risk by taking a few essential precautions. Follow our advice to save you from the misery of winter flooding, especially if your property is going to be empty.
Insulate – inside and out
Insulating external pipes is fundamental to reducing the risk of them bursting in freezing weather. You should also consider insulating internal pipes where there is a lack of heating, for example, in your garage or loft. The same applies to loft-housed water tanks.
Look out for the signs
If you are resident at your property, it pays to be vigilant. If you spot that your pipes are frozen, you should act without delay. Employ a reputable plumber to thaw the pipes to avoid them bursting.
If you spot any leaks from external pipes, again it is best to have them repaired swiftly before the escaped water becomes frozen.
Slow, or no, running water can also be a sign of frozen pipes.
Keep your home warm
Arguments over the thermostat are common in many households, but be sure to heat your home well to avoid pipes freezing. If you are away during the day, put the central heating on a timer.
Do not forget to warm internal pipes in unheated areas, such as those in your loft or under sinks, by opening hatches and cupboard doors.
Take quick action if pipes burst
If you are at home and your pipes burst, you should take urgent steps to limit the damage. This will not only save you from overwhelming repairs, it will make your insurance claim stronger.
Turn off the stopcock immediately and turn on your cold taps to reduce the amount of water that can escape through the pipes. While you wait for an emergency plumber, soak up as much water as you can with towels. Take photographs of the damage to help with your subsequent insurance claim.
It is important to contact your insurer as soon as possible to instigate the claim process and carry out the necessary repair work, in case the damage worsens.
Be sure to have your boiler serviced on an annual basis, as a faulty boiler can lead to frozen pipes.
Extra precautions for vacant properties
Leaving your property vacant while travelling? It is worth asking a trusted neighbour or family member to keep an eye on it for you. You could also ask them to turn the heating on occasionally to keep pipes from freezing.
If your property will be vacant for an extended amount of time, you should turn the stopcock off. You may even consider draining the system or installing a leak detector as an extra precaution.
Protect against roof damage
Clearly, your property’s roof is its primary defence against harsh weather. When temperatures drop and there is a threat of frost and snow, it is wise to ensure your roof is up to withstanding the elements.
In snowy weather, the formation of ice dams on roofs can lead to leaks and structural damage. Ice dams occur on sloped roofs when the uppermost part is warmer than the sides. Snow melts on the top and freezes when it gets to the eaves causing guttering to clog and overflow. Worse, when the ice melts, it can escape under the shingles and penetrate interior walls.
Ice dams also increase the risk of icicles forming, which could cause damage to property or vehicles if they fall, or even injure an unlucky passer-by.
Insulate and ventilate lofts
To reduce the risk of damage due to snow and ice, make sure your loft is well insulated so that heat is evenly distributed. Also, ensure that you ventilate it often to avoid it getting too warm. Conversely, if your loft is too cold, open the hatch occasionally to allow warm air to circulate, to avoid frozen pipes.
Replace damaged roof tiles
Inspect your roof tiles as winter draws near, to see if any loose or missing tiles need replacing. This will limit the likelihood of thawing ice escaping underneath.
In the case of extreme snowfall, your roof should be secure enough to bear the weight. It is important to act before winter sets in and have it inspected by a professional roofer if you are concerned about the stability of your roof.
If your guttering is blocked, then water will back up as a result and may turn to ice in freezing conditions. This may lead to leaks and expensive structural damage. To reduce the risk, have all gutters cleaned of debris and fallen leaves towards the end of autumn.
Many of us enjoy an open fire or log burner during cosy evenings, but it is essential to have chimneys cleaned before their use resumes in winter. Debris such as the remains of bird’s nests is highly flammable and poses a dangerous fire risk. Chimney cleaning will also remove traces of harmful creosote, built up from the gases emitted from burning wood.
A slip on the ice can be embarrassing at best and cause nasty injuries at worst. To protect you, your family, guests and visitors from accidents this winter, keep a supply of grit to clear pathways and driveways.
If you are a landlord this is especially important, as you may find yourself liable if your one of your tenants suffer an ice-related accident on the property that could have been avoided.
Does home insurance cover burst pipes?
Jersey Mutual home insurance policies include damage caused by escape of water due to burst pipes. All emergency work and repair costs will be covered, after the deduction of the policy excess.
Jersey Mutual’s House and Home Insurance, includes additional trace and access cover, allowing for the services of a professional to track down the source of a mystery leak. It also includes the cost of overnight accommodation for you and your family, should your home become uninhabitable after an escape of water.
Enjoy peace of mind this winter with Jersey Mutual
Even the most diligent of homeowners can suffer property damage in the winter, despite their best efforts. If the protection of your home against freezing weather is a concern to you, then take comfort in the protection afforded by Jersey Mutual’s home insurance.
Our valued Jersey Mutual Members can rely on our team of friendly experts to settle any claims swiftly and sympathetically. As Jersey’s only insurance society, we have no use for brokers and do not charge administration fees. You can be assured of premium stability.