Preparing your unoccupied property for the winter

As winter approaches, we begin to prepare for the colder weather, by turning up the heating in our homes, lighting fires and wrapping up warm. But what happens to unoccupied properties during the colder months? And how can you keep your unoccupied property protected during winter?

Rain, rain and more rain!

It’s natural to experience heavy rainfall across the United Kingdom during autumn and winter, however you can never underestimate the damage it can cause. If you own an unoccupied property, make sure the property is as watertight as it can be, to minimise potential water damage.

  • Check the condition of the property’s roof and make any necessary repairs before autumn and winter. Ensure you have no holes, rotten batons, damaged or rotten roof underlay and broken tiles.
  • Check the quality of guttering, fascia boards, soffits, and bargeboards to ensure they are not blocked with debris, are rotten or need replacing.
  • Clear out gutters and drains during the dryer months in preparation for wetter weather. If you have low hanging trees by your property, you may have to clear the gutters and drains during autumn as falling leaves can cause serious blockages and water build-up.
  • Are windows, skylights and doors closed and properly sealed? It might sound like an obvious question, but even the smallest gaps in windows and other openings can let in water.

Feeling frosty!

Water leakages are an obvious issue to look out for, but frost can be just as destructive to an unoccupied property. If your unoccupied property has heating, try and leave the heating on at a minimum level or on the anti-freeze setting, as this could help prevent your pipes from freezing over. If you have no heating in the property, you can buy anti-freeze pipe insulation that wraps tightly around internal and external pipes.

Exposed pipes (especially external pipes) are prone to freezing and can rupture when the temperature drops below freezing, which causes water pressure to build up between the ice blockage and the faucet.

If you are not convinced your heating or the anti-freeze pipe insulation will prevent your pipes from bursting, then consider turning off the water at the mains and drain the heating supply and pipes. Remember, there could still be water left in the pipes, even with the water mains turned off, so either ask a plumber to drain them for you, or keep a continuous eye on any exposed pipes during winter.

Batten down the hatches!

High winds are another winter guarantee, with 2019 being the windiest year on record in the United Kingdom since 2012. Damage to properties caused by high winds can be devastating, so to try and reduce any potential damage, consider the following:

  • Check the condition of your roof. We mentioned it earlier, but check, check and check again! Ensure there are no loose tiles that could fly off, and if you have a chimney stack, ensure that it is strong and secure and has not degraded to a state where it could topple over.
  • Make sure to remove any clutter, rubbish or debris that could come loose in high winds and break a window. If you have security fencing or security boards over access points, make sure these are secure and won’t fall or come loose.
  • Check that any outbuildings such as sheds and garages are secure, so nothing comes loose.

Let there be light!

As the days get shorter and the nights are longer, opportunists could be seeking out unoccupied properties that they can steal from or vandalise. To help prevent damage and theft to your unoccupied property, consider installing flood lights around the property, in particular access points and blinds spots. Criminals like nothing more than hiding in the shadows, so lighting up your property will be a great deterrent.

If flood lights aren’t quite enough, you can buy light timers that will pop on your main lights, lamps or even your TV and radio automatically, to make it look as though someone is living in the property. The more your unoccupied property looks occupied and well cared for, the lower the risk of a break-in or vandalism.