Winter risks advice for holiday home owners

Houghton, Norfolk in Winter

Houghton, Norfolk in Winter

Winter is definitely here and the onset of the cold weather is likely to bring with it the usual winter risks for you and your properties. With the help of Boshers (one of our preferred Holiday Home Insurance specialists) and insurance underwriters Ecclesiastical, we have put together some handy hints, which offer practical advice for some of the most common issues to challenge holiday home owners across the UK, be it burst pipes, weight of snow on roofs or ingress of water. With the weather once again turning decidedly chilly, now is the time read on so you can take action to protect your properties.

Last year burst pipe claims cost an average of £3,627 each to put right. Holiday cottages can be particularly at risk of very expensive claims during the winter months. There are a number of simple but effective steps property owners can take to both prevent and reduce the impact of cold weather on their properties.

Burst Pipes:

Escape of water can devastate a holiday home and is one of the most common holiday home insurance claims. The cost and inconvenience caused by a burst pipe can be considerable. Just a small fracture can release gallons of water, damaging masonry and plaster, carpets and other contents.

If taps aren’t working, showers aren’t running and you have problems with your heating it could be you have frozen pipes and it’s likely you will already know about it! If you’re not sure check all the taps in your home, especially those hidden away outdoors or in the garage, are they running freely? And what about water fountains and features in the garden? It could be they have frozen and you didn’t even know!

  1. Help to reduce potential losses by having someone inspect your holiday home on a regular basis and take action to protect your water pipes from freezing. This may not prevent a loss but early identification of an escape can help reduce the ultimate cost. This is one of the many management services offered by Kett Country Cottages.
  2. Ensure that you are adhering to your holiday home insurance policy conditions. Failure to comply is likely to result in a claim not being paid. Remind yourself of the Holiday Home Insurance policy conditions that apply to you.
  3. Make sure you know where to turn off the water supply. Leave clear instructions on the location of your stop cock for your guests, cleaner and anyone else who may inspect your property in your absence.
  4. Repair any dripping taps and don’t forget to insulate outside taps in your garden or garage. Make sure any external taps are turned off and disconnect any hoses.
  5. If the premises will be unoccupied for some time, drain down and shut off your water system.
  6. Lots of lagging! Check the insulation on your water pipes and cold water tank – those in the attic or other vulnerable spaces should be lagged or similarly protected. Insulation should be laid on top of pipes rather than underneath them, as insulation laid below the pipes will prevent rising heat reaching them.
  7. Keep your property heated to reduce the chance of a pipe freezing.
  8. If you discover a frozen pipe, don’t wait for it to burst. Turn off your water supply and then slowly thaw the affected pipe by introducing gentle heat to the area, such as with a hairdryer, space heater or hot water bottle. If a pipe does burst, turn off the water supply at the stopcock. Do not use any electrics if you believe these may have been affected by the escaping water. Have these checked by a professional electrician. Devices are available which can detect leaks or excessive water flow and either send a warning or automatically turn off the water.

Heating System Maintenance

  1. If your heating fails, electric convector or fan-assisted heaters with thermostatic cut-outs can be used as a temporary measure rather than LPG heaters, which give off lots of water vapour and can lead to the onset of rot in woodwork. Electric radiant heaters and paraffin/oil fired heaters should never be used, even as a temporary measure.
  2. Make sure the boiler and heating system is serviced regularly and check that the thermostat is working correctly.
  3. Leaving your heating on frost stat alone may not be sufficient as with most makes of combi boiler this is designed only to protect the boiler itself from freezing.
  4. Remove the hatch to your loft so that warm air can circulate. This may appear environmentally unfriendly or a little extravagant but it might mean the difference between a ruined home and a dry one!
  5. Do not allow the level of oil or gas in your tank to get low and risk running out during a sustained period of severe weather which may hamper deliveries. Take precautions and have an alternative heating source available in case your supply fails. Heating oil itself can freeze in extremely cold weather- speak to your supplier for additional advice.
  6. Do not rely upon night storage heaters alone to prevent damage in freezing conditions. Consider treating the property as if it were unheated when unoccupied, i.e. turn off and drain the water system.

Building Maintenance

  1. Keep gutters, gullies and down pipes and drains clear. Signs of soil being washed away at ground level or splashes of soil at the base of walls can be an indication that water is not being caught by the gutter.
  2. Keeping an eye on your roof. Loose or missing slates and tiles may mean that water is getting into the roof. Arranging for a professional to put back a loose or missing slate or tile is much cheaper than repairing or replacing roof timbers.
  3. Keeping pathways clear. You have a duty of care to ensure visitors to your holiday home are safe. Unfortunately, slips and trips can happen, particularly when there is ice and snow on the ground. You should take actions that are ‘reasonable in the circumstances’. This can include ensuring that entry and exit routes are kept free of anything that may cause a person to slip, and taking preventative measures such as clearing and gritting paths and making sure there is at least one safe route available to access the building.

All of this good advice can easily be put into practice by using Kett Country Cottages’ Maintenance Services. So if you have a holiday home away from home, give us a call and let us take the strain out your of property rental.

For more Winter hints and tips go to Ecclesiastical’s website.