The clocks have been turned back and there’s no denying that it’s officially wintertime. At this stage most of us will have turned the heating on and started preparing for the long, cold days and even colder nights ahead.
But if recent weather patterns are anything to go by, we should all ensure to take a few extra steps to help protect our homes (and our heating bills) during the chilly and possibly stormy months ahead.
So we asked some home maintenance experts for their advice on how to keep our properties safe over the coming winter.
Leonard Ryan from 3Rocks Property Maintenance in Dublin says insulating your house is like donning an extra layer and making sure all relevant areas are insulated and all draughts and cracks are sealed up is the first step to insuring your home stays as warm as possible throughout the winter.
While Dennis McGrath of Big Blue Cleaning in Ennis, Co Clare says getting the gutters and drains cleared will go a long way to protecting your property from rain damage. He also advises homeowners to get rid of moss from driveways and patios.
Chimney safety expert, Niall Byrne reminds us of the importance of ensuring our chimneys are not a fire hazards and plumber Patrick Cunningham says servicing the boiler is a must.
And while we can all do as much as possible to keep our homes warm and dry, there are some things we can't foresee so insurance expert Iggy Duffy says it is important to keep our insurance policies up to date.
So before you do anything else this winter, make sure to carry out these top tips:
Boost your insulation
If you haven’t already done so, Leonard Ryan says insulating your house will make a huge difference when it comes to keeping your home cosy.
“Insulation of your attic is a cost effective way of retaining heat by preventing hot air escaping and cold air penetrating,” he says.
“So insulate between ceiling joists and large gaps with rock wool – then for any smaller gaps or hard-to-reach areas, use a can of expanding foam – and make sure to seal around the attic door.”
The maintenance expert says it’s vital to seal draughty exterior windows, doors and letterboxes to keep cold air from seeping into your house.
“Use a good external door seal to prevent any cold air getting in,” he advises. “And for around the windows use a self-sticking window seal that is best suited for your type of window.
“You can also seal top and bottom of skirting boards with flexible filler.”
Get your boiler serviced
There is nothing more frustrating than the boiler packing up on a freezing cold night and this is why experts advise a service once a year to ensure smooth running throughout the winter months.
“Manufacturer and industry standards recommend your boiler is serviced once every 12 months to ensure it operates efficiently and safely,” advises a spokesman for www.cunninghamplumbers.ie in Galway.
“Servicing your boiler on an annual basis not only gives you the comfort of knowing your boiler is safe but is also efficient therefore reducing your energy costs substantially.”
Getting the chimney cleaned is vital and Niall Byrne of www.topcap.ie says we should all get a professional job done every year and make sure our alarms are in working order.
“After the exceptionally dry season we’ve had it’s more important than ever to get chimneys swept,” says the Dublin based specialist. “I would advise people to get it checked and inspected as un-swept chimneys are a potential fire hazard.
”Also, it is crucial to check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms – make sure they are both in working order with new batteries and also that they are positioned correctly – carbon monoxide alarms should be at head height not on the ceiling and many people don’t realise that they have been affected and are feeling ill for weeks before an alarm, placed too high, goes off.”
Clean your gutters
The onset of winter brings wind and rain and Denis McGrath of Big Blue Cleaning, says taking the time to clear out guttering will help prevent the risk of damage.
“Clear and free flowing gutters and downpipes will take rainwater away from the house,” he says.
“When blocked they can overflow causing damage to facia boards, which, over time, allows water to enter the building causing damp – every litre of water a blocked gutter holds, is a kilo in weight and over time can cause gutter bolts to pull from the building. Also blocked gutters are more likely to leak, leaving slippery puddles and unsightly water-staining around a property.”
The cleaning professional says it is important to clear moss from around the home before the winter sets in as early evenings and wet weather can make pathways hazardous.
“Moss and algae on exterior horizontal surfaces are not only an eyesore, they are slippery and therefore dangerous,” warns McGrath. “To keep paths and driveways clear on the dark winter nights there are a many options, depending on the type of surface material and budget.”
Keep your insurance up to date
If recent winters are anything to go by, the weather can become extreme with storms, floods and heavy snow making life difficult. And financial advisor, Iggy Duffy of www.premiumclaims.ie says it is vital to ensure all insurance policies are up to date and suited to individual needs and properties.
“As the winter approaches, make sure all your house maintenance jobs are done and then ensure you have sufficient cover, in case the worst happens,” he advises.”