As you bask in the heatwave of another British summer – well, we can dream! – the last thing you will be thinking about is the coming autumn and winter. But remember when the government used to talk about fixing the roof when the sun was shining? Well this time we should take the politicians seriously because that’s precisely what we have to do.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves by talking about roofs, let’s start on the ground floor and work our way up.
It certainly pays to be prepared and perhaps the most important thing to consider now is what happens when you turn your heating back on after all those weeks and months when the system has been switched off and you’ve been saving on your bills!
Gas safety is absolutely essential and so before you fire up the boiler you really need to get it checked by a qualified and registered engineer. Firstly, you need to make sure that it will work when you need it – nobody wants to be replacing their boiler in the winter! – but also you need to be checking if any carbon monoxide is being released.
As we know, carbon monoxide (otherwise known as CO) is a silent and odourless killer and just a few simple steps can keep you and your family safe. Firstly, get a CO detector in your house and make sure that it’s working. Then if you haven’t had your gas appliances and flues checked for a while, now’s the time to do it.
And while you’re checking flues you might want to look at any air vents or even your chimney (if you have one) to make sure nothing has grown over and is causing a blockage. Finally, when you are happy with everything and you come to fire up your boiler, make sure that the gas flame burns blue. If it doesn’t, shut the boiler down immediately and call that engineer. Of course, your heating system’s efficiency is not just about the boiler so take time out to check all your radiators – do they leak, do they have air in them and so need bleeding, do the controls still work or have they seized up?
Another way of preparing your home for those colder months is to minimise the risk of having any floods or water damage when the downpours come or when the snow falls. Gutters and drains are always susceptible to getting blocked by leaves or other debris and if you get a spell of heavy rain or lengthy periods of snow you could be in big trouble. Also, make sure that no downpipe connections have come loose because that could lead to water pouring down an outside wall which you really need to avoid. One more thought: is all your guttering strong enough to take the weight of snow sitting there for days or even weeks on end? Does it need replacing?
Now let’s look at that roof. You need to make sure that all the tiles are in place, that lead flashings around your chimney (again, if you have one) are in good condition and that there are no gaps anywhere that could either let in water or allow the wind to get underneath and cause havoc and even potential danger. On the subject of chimneys, it’s always good practice to have it swept before you start up a fire since there can be debris, old birds’ nests and all sorts of things causing an unsafe blockage.
Of course, you should always get an experienced roofer to climb up and check your tiles – never think you’ll just nip up there yourself! – but one job you can do is go into your loft and check the roof from the inside. Assuming your loft is boarded and you have a light in there, get yourself into a safe position away from the loft entrance then turn out the light and look for daylight coming in. This only works if you do it during the day, of course, and bear in mind that there will always be some chinks of light coming in but you are looking for major tears or yawning gaps. Hopefully, there will be no bird or squirrel damage. Whatever you do, make sure you turn the light back on before you move away from your secure position!
By the way, if you haven’t g ot your loft insulated and boarded, now is the time to think about doing it and also about insulating elsewhere in your home. Insulation has been shown to make a big difference to the size of energy bills, with some people reporting savings of over £200 a year!
Speaking of bills, with it starting to get dark at around four in the afternoon and still being dark when you go to work in the morning, you will obviously be using your lights for long periods of the day. So why not go around now and check your lightbulbs? Do you still have the old-style energy sapping versions? Fitting energy-saving bulbs can also make a major difference to your electricity bill while at the same time helping you to play your part in saving the planet.
Coming back down to earth, while you may have welcomed a bit of a breeze coursing through your home in the warm months, when the cold sets in you will want to get rid of any drafts that drift into your home through leaky door seals or windows. Most people now have double-glazing but you’d be surprised where those bone-chilling gusts of wind can come from. No house is fully sealed and everywhere that there is a void in its structure – including letterboxes, anywhere that holes have been created for passing pipes or cables through, and even cat flaps – there is the potential for a draft that you will almost certainly feel down the back of your neck as you watch TV. Even inner doors can be a problem so, even though it may seem a tad old-fashioned, the humble draft excluder across the bottom of a door can make all the difference!
Before we finish, let’s go back to the subject of home insurance. It’s something that you hope you never have to call on, of course, but it is worth spending a little time double-checking that it covers you for weather-related damage. Many people get a rude awakening when they find out that they cannot claim for any of the thousands of pounds worth of rain or wind damage that has wrecked their home. It’s a double whammy that you really need to avoid.
Follow these tips and you will be well prepared for the colder months. In the meantime, let’s hope that they are not here for some time to come and that the only problem we have to worry about is having to keep ourselves cool!
Of course, if you can’t manage any of these jobs yourself, just check out Checkatrade and find a tradesperson that you can trust to do the work for you.
Craig Phillips is an official brand ambassador for Checkatrade.
For more information please visit www.checkatrade.com