By James Cope.
The cold, wet weather is here again and there is a good chance that the snow and ice will soon follow. This time of year can be very testing for homeowners, tenants and landlords alike. The last thing anyone wants is an emergency due to the cold, wet conditions.
In this blog, I take a look at some of the preventative measures that can be taken to minimise the risk of property problems at this time of year.
Freezing temperatures can lead to water leaks and floods in a property if a minimum amount of heat is not maintained at all times.
❄ At the very least, set your central heating to come on twice every 24 hours for at least four hours each time, to ensure that the property and the pipes within will not freeze. If there is a frost setting on your boiler, then this can also be utilised. This is especially important if you go away for any length of time, particularly over the festive period (although this is obviously pretty limited this year!). Tenants and homeowners should be aware that insurance policies may be invalid if the stay away is longer than a certain period of time and heating precautions are not taken.
I would also suggest that tenants advise their agent should any period of absence from the property is greater than 7 days.
❄ Make sure that you are familiar with how the boiler works, the location of the water stop tap and how to adjust the thermostat. This is especially important for tenants who unfamiliar with the property. Ensure that manuals are to hand and that emergency contact numbers are easily available.
This time of year does bring with it increased winter risks.
❄ Likely risks this time of year include storm damage, flood damage, water leaks and of course the biggest risk of all, third parity liability for injuries to tenants, visitors and the general public. If a slate or tile blows off the roof in a gale, and it injures a passer-by, the liabilities can be horrendous. So, make sure your landlord’s insurance policy is up to date and that it covers you for the most common winter risks.
Maintaining a minimum heat level should prevent pipes freezing and copper pipes are more likely to split than the more modern plastic pipes. However, if pipes do freeze they need to be thawed out very carefully.
❄ The water stop tap should be turned off, the boiler switched off, and a slow thaw-out with warmth applied to the pipes. Do not apply a direct flame. Open all the taps to allow the system to fully drain out.
❄ When fully thawed out and drained, check for any pipe splitting and repair as necessary before carefully turning the water pressure back on and thoroughly checking for leaks. Also, any water damage in the property will need to be fully dried out to prevent mould formation.
Condensation and Mould
Condensation is a big problem in many homes, even new ones, particularly in the winter months. Older properties will suffer most, especially those with solid masonry walls. Over time, any condensation present will result in black mould patches on walls, particularly in the colder and highest rooms in the house like bedrooms and bathrooms where mould will start to form.
Condensation is a complex systemic problem which many people confuse with dampness. More often than not, condensation is caused by the lifestyle of the occupants rather than anything that’s fundamentally wrong with the property. However, poor insulation, inadequate heating systems and poor ventilation at the source of steam, kitchens and bathrooms, will all contribute to condensation.
Condensation is caused my high moisture content in the air condensing on cold surfaces; boiling kettles, baths and showers, drying clothes on radiators and cooking being the obvious ones.
1 – Inadequate heating – particularly common in rented properties where occupants often try to save money by having little or no heating on during most of the day time, especially if they are out all day working. Not only is this false economy, as it costs more to get the place up to temperature from scratch than it does to leave the heating on low, it results in very cold surfaces where water condenses on contact.
2 – Lack of ventilation – production of lots of steam from cooking, bathing and washing / drying clothes without ventilating it at source results in hot steam laden air rising and condensing on any could surface. Bathrooms and kitchens should have good extractors to remove steam at source.
Prevention is better than Cure
… and, in most cases, is cheaper!
Please be safe this winter and do everything you can to stay warm and incident free!