Winter rural cottage in a field with dusting of snow

Winter preparation for homes

Winter conditions can bring snow, ice and potential damage for homes and let properties during the season. At Cornish Mutual, we are advising home owners to take steps to protect their properties.

Winter is a particularly important time of year for people whose homes are likely to be empty for a period of time.

Claire Longman, Technical Leader at Cornish Mutual, says: “Sometimes it is inevitable that your property will be empty for a stretch of time. Perhaps you are going on a long holiday this winter, own a rental property and are between tenants, or are selling your home and have already moved out.

"Unoccupancy restrictions under your home insurance policy are likely to apply during such periods.”

Protecting your home from snow and ice

In order to prevent significant damage and disruption, we suggest taking the following measures to protect your home in the winter months:

  • Keep your boiler in good order - Ensure that the boiler and heating system are regularly serviced at least once a year by a registered professional.
  • Keep heating low and regular - By leaving the heating on low, around 15 degrees Celsius, you can prevent pipes freezing in very cold weather.
  • Insulate your loft - The Energy Saving Trust recommends the minimum thickness of loft insulation should be 270mm. Improperly insulated lofts can cause snow to melt, run down into gutters then freeze again, creating blockages and causing leaks.
  • Enable heat circulation - Ensure furniture isn’t too close to your radiators and heaters to allow heat to circulate.
  • Spread warm air - Leave loft covers or cupboard doors ajar, allowing warm air to circulate the voids.
  • Plan for emergencies - Know the whereabouts of, and label the water shut off valve (stop tap). This will help you and others to quickly isolate the supply in the event of an emergency. You may wish to turn the water off and drain the pipes.
  • Insulate exposed pipes - Water pipes, cold water tanks and taps in unheated or exposed places should be lagged to prevent pipes freezing.
  • Check for pipe problems - Pipes should be visually checked regularly. Plastic plumbing joints will degrade sooner than metal ones. Arrange to re-washer any dripping taps, as if they freeze, they’ll block your pipes.
  • Reduce the risk of leaks - Clear your gutters and drains from debris, to prevent blockages which could leak into the roof and walls.
  • Assess your roof - A visual or professional inspection can help to identify loose tiles or slates, or damaged parts of the roof can might make it easier for snow and water to get in. Older roofs may also be at risk of collapsing under built-up snow, which an inspection should identify.
  • Watch out for overhangs - Overhanging branches that look dead or unhealthy should be removed, as a build-up of snow can cause branches to break, potentially damaging your home and causing injuries.
  • Stock up on grit - If you have a lot of paved paths around the house, consider keeping a supply of grit handy to help make paths and steps safe.
  • Ask for help - Ask a trusted friend or neighbour to check your property regularly.

Claire adds: “Dealing with the aftermath of property damage is not only costly but stressful. Homeowners can avoid being in this difficult situation with a little planning and by following some simple steps.”

Useful links

The Met Office has a number of home advice articles for winter, including how to keep your home warm, tips on clearing paths and what to do if you have a burst pipe.