“Thank goodness were finally moving on from a terrible winter! Tim Hollingsworth, managing director of leading estate agency and surveying firm Rumball Sedgwick, has a couple of handy tips to protect against the cold next time…
At last we’re starting to see some signs of spring, and putting the long, cold winter behind us. Apparently in the UK it was the coldest start to March on record – although at the North Pole, it was much warmer than usual! Now we hear that it’s been snowing much more than usual in Antarctica, because temperatures are much higher than they should be. It seems clear that extreme weather events are becoming more common, and the weather is subject to more swings, and is a lot less predictable than we’ve been used to for several centuries.
So I think that now, while the memory of the ‘Beast from the East’ is still fresh, is a great time to start preparing for next winter, before the memory fades! There are a number of simple things the careful householder can do to protect their property from the ravages of the weather, and to help stop those fuel bills going through the roof.
The first thing you should do is add more insulation in your roof. Even if it is insulated already, you probably need to add more. Many houses I see had their insulation installed several decades ago; and it is frequently only four inches thick. New houses or extensions usually have a foot thickness of fibre insulation, and that’s what you should be aiming for. Modern insulation is supplied as easy-to-handle slabs, or as polythene-wrapped rolls; most people find it’s much easier to install than the open fibreglass material that we all used to struggle with. You can also buy special ‘feet’ for raising up ceiling boards above the insulation, which means the insulation material itself doesn’t get squashed flat – which would destroy a lot of its insulating property. Although modern materials are much easier to handle, it’s still a good idea to always wear a face mask, and I also recommend knee pads.
Secondly, check your gutters. Freezing weather can cause problems for gutters, including perishing the rubber seals that are used in the joints of plastic guttering. This causes leaks at the joints, which can damage your walls if not attended to. The good news is, that you can buy packs of replacement seals very cheaply, which will get the gutters working properly in no time. And it’s always a good idea to clear your gutters of debris in the spring anyway. Just make sure you are using an appropriate ladder or mini-tower or get a man in to do it for you.
Thirdly, it’s worth spending some time to check your central heating is working correctly. If you find some of your radiators are cold even when the heating is on, and the radiators are turned up, it probably means that your central heating system needs ‘balancing’. This is quite difficult to do yourself but is a quick and cheap job for a heating engineer, so it’s well worth paying to have it done. Leaving some rooms cold for prolonged periods can encourage damp, so balancing your system will ensure that you get even heat throughout the house. And don’t forget to bleed the radiators as well. You may find your radiators give off much more heat, even with the thermostat set to a lower temperature! And you might be pleasantly surprised how much more comfortable this makes your house in a cold spell.”