How can the summer weather damage your unoccupied property?
The UK is not exactly renowned for long hot summers. In fact, our summers can often be short and disappointing! But, when the sun does shine, do you ever stop to think about the damage the warm and humid weather could cause to our homes or properties we are responsible for?
We’ve listed some of the less obvious issues property owners could face when the weather does reach beyond the mid 20Cs!
Timber floors and doors
Ever wonder why the front door is suddenly jarred? Or why your wooden floorboards seem to have larger gaps between each panel than before? That is because wood is a natural product which expands when exposed to heat and moisture and shrinks when humidity levels are low. This means that during the summer months, you could find it hard to close your property’s doors as they scrape the bottom of the floor or no longer align with the strike plate. If your property has wooden floors, you may find you have gaps between each board which are likely to go once winter comes around. However, bulging and lifting in floorboards can occur which may be the cause of a missing expansion gap or exposure to damp and humidity over a long period of time.
To help reduce the effects of dryness or humidity in your unoccupied property, simple measures during any visits to the property such as opening windows to help with circulation of air and dehumidifiers can work wonders. Ensuring that the property doors and floors have the appropriate finishes can reduce the amount of moisture they absorb. Exterior doors are much more exposed to the elements, so ensure they have been properly sealed. Cleaning can also play an important role in keeping your doors and floors in good shape.
Only clean your floors and doors with products recommended by the supplier or specialists – never use a soaking mop or cloth to clean as all that excess water will just seep into the cracks and be absorbed.
Although British summers are relatively short and mild compared to hotter countries, damage to your unoccupied property’s roof can still occur during the summer months. The damage may be gradual but over time, tiles, shingles, and wooden roof battens can become cracked and rotten. Tiles and shingles like most materials will degrade over time due to the various weather conditions they are exposed to. Once moisture finds its way into the tile or shingle, the hotter weather can encourage cracks to form.
Wooden battens can warp just like wooden floors and doors due to the penetration of moisture. Lofts can be particularly damp and moist as ventilation is often non-existent. Modern insulation and roof felt is more breathable and robust than older materials, allowing your loft space to release moisture more easily.
Summer can also be the best time to venture into the loft or take a look at your roof (safely) to examine its condition. Replacing any broken or cracked tiles or shingles and checking for moisture before the winter rain sets-in could help prevent any unwanted leaks and rotting!
Although aggressive storms are rare in the UK, when they do materialise, they can bring with them a lot of rain - mainly toward the backend of summer. Flash flooding is a common occurrence across the country, so it is ideal to clear gutters during the drier months to prevent blockages and sagging. Keep an eye on your fascia’s and soffits to make sure they are in good condition. Holes or rot will only encourage water to leak into your roof and walls. Monitor outside drains throughout your property to ensure they are not blocked or backed-up. If flooding does occur, the overflow of water could seep into your property and cause serious damage.
As spring and summer encourages our gardens to flourish, so to does the growth of trees and bushes. To help prevent large branches from dislodging into your roof or into a window during a summer storm, cut-back and trim trees and large bushes that are particularly close to your unoccupied property garage or garden shed. Look out for branches that are closer to our touching powerlines that run from your vacant home - but make sure you get a professional to remove these as the risk of electrocution is high.
Subsidence is caused when the ground underneath a building begins to collapse or sinks lower, effecting or taking with it, the buildings foundations. Clay soil is very susceptible to subsidence, especially during the warmer months when the earth shrinks due to extreme dryness. Trees can also contribute to subsidence, with species such as populus, oak and conifers having a higher water intake than other trees, therefore absorbing large amounts of moisture from the soil.
Noticeable signs of subsidence can include large, thick cracks that often appear next to a door or window and can often spread internally and externally. Other signs may include shrinkage in wallpaper, jarring of windows and doors and cracks running along the masonry. To help prevent subsidence do not plant deep rooted trees or bushes close to the building or plants that have a high-water intake. If you already have deep rooted trees or bushes by your property, do not be tempted to dig these up! Removing the root systems can cause water logging or unstable soil. Catch excessive amounts of rainwater that might be spilling from gutters and drains into water butts or divert it away from your empty home. Once subsidence has settled in, not much can be done to fix it. Fixing subsidence can be extremely costly and invasive so if you feel that your home is showing signs of subsidence, contact your insurance provider right away to see what exactly you will be covered for and what they recommend.