Cold weather damage during the winter months is a common concern for UK households. Freezing conditions force us to retreat into our homes where blankets, pots of tea and central heating warmly await us.
We build these cosy sanctuaries to survive the harsher climes, which is why maintaining their integrity is so important to us. Storm damage from cold or freezing weather not only threatens our property, but it also threatens our health. Flu bugs, damp, and freezing/thawing cycles pose unique challenges, so preparing for the worst whilst remaining toasty is imperative.
This blog is going to take a look at the various types of cold weather damage you can expect during the winter months, plus ways to avoid or limit the issues caused by freezing temperatures.
Types of cold weather damage
It’s estimated that freezing weather costs the UK economy around £1 billion a day for every day it lingers. Property repairs take a significant share of this financial burden, which can cost homeowners up to a whopping £25k from water damage or burst pipes.
With that said, let’s take a look at some of the most common issues caused by cold weather damage.
Roof and gutter stress
Freezing conditions can inflict havoc on your roof. Issues such as ice dams that cause leaks, strong winds that loosen shingles, or impacted ice/icicles that cause weight strain all threaten your roof’s integrity. Your gutters may suffer the same fate, with the issue compounded when they become blocked and can’t flush the rain or snow away from your house.
Damp and rot
Due to shifting temperatures and the numerous freeze and thaw cycles, damp and rot are common UK winter issues. Your door and window frames are particularly vulnerable to this kind of problem – especially if they’re timber-framed. Unless they’re treated with materials like epoxy filler and any irregularities corrected, they’re vulnerable to wood rot.
Loft water leaks
Many households have water pipes or cisterns in their lofts, which is why they commonly suffer from leaks and condensation build-up during cold spells. They’re at the most risk when these exposed pipes and systems aren’t properly protected, causing problems once the excess moisture freezes. Broken roofs can also impact your loft, with thawing ice or snow melting through any unsealed cracks and worsening the issue.
Seals, such as those with caulk, may crack or peel away from your windows during colder months. This is due to temperature fluctuations that expand and contract the air pressure inside and outside your home. In turn, this can cause draughts that let heat escape and reduce the effectiveness of your insulation.
Patios and concrete paths aren’t immune to the elements. When snow or frost melts, the resulting moisture enters any cracks and erodes them even further. Then, when it freezes, the cracks expand and grow deeper, resulting in a continuous cycle of erosion and expansion until you undertake the appropriate repairs and limit the damage.
Most cold-weather electrical hazards occur when basement puddles form or outdoor lighting gets waterlogged. The rising damp in your basement risks damaging any appliances or electrics, whilst the resulting rust on exterior lights pose a safety risk. Be sure to avoid these issues by investing in water barriers for your basement and weather-proof covers for your external lights.
For the more green-fingered amongst us, freezing conditions don’t just affect our perennials. Cold weather threatens to shatter the very foundations of their carefully curated existence. This is because when water freezes, it expands, which can shatter clay or concrete pots, devastating your prized petunias.
Burst pipes are one of the most common – and pricey – issues when it comes to freezing conditions. When pipes burst, they leak into high impact areas of your home, such as your loft, basement and/or walls. In turn, this causes damp and mould that require further treatment. Frozen or burst pipes affect both outdoor taps and indoor plumbing, so it’s worth protecting them and avoiding their not-so-spontaneous combustion where possible.
In particularly cold conditions, chimneys are at greater risk. Bricks will expand and contract along with the winter temperature fluctuations. In worst cases, this causes cracks in our chimneys that degrade further with time. This is why it’s worth staying on top of your chimney maintenance during the warmer months.
Even with the best water-repellant protection in the world, decking is still susceptible to winter moisture damage, which causes discolouration and warping. Think about covering it with tarpaulin and clearing any debris or snow as soon as it arrives.
How to prevent cold weather damage
As you can tell, there are numerous property risks associated with cold weather. However, all is not lost. There are several things you can do to prevent or limit storm damage and ensure your home is properly protected.
Use weather-resistant insulation and wrap your pipes to avoid them freezing or bursting. Lofts and garages are particularly vulnerable, so focus on those areas first before wrapping the rest of your house.
Top tip: In freezing conditions, leave your taps to ‘drip’ so there’s a constant stream of water flowing through them.
Clear gutters and melt any snow with a de-icer
Maintaining free-flowing water during the winter months is a necessity. This is because, if the water builds up and freezes, it can strain or break your gutters – damage that requires pricey repairs. Consider hiring a professional to clean your gutters before the winter months, and be sure to stay on top of flushing them through with a high-grade de-icer whenever any ice or snow builds-up.
Regularly inspect your roofs and chimneys
We recommend you undertake regular roof and chimney inspections to make sure they’re structurally sound all-year-round. Look out for debris, leaning chimney breasts, broken or cracked tiles, and be sure to fix any issues before the cold sets in.
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Prepare your garden
Frost doesn’t take kindly to plants. That’s why it’s worth either bringing your potted perennials inside or wrapping them with an insulating material, such as bubble wrap. We advise you only keep hardy plants outdoors, with the more tender variety in sheltered areas or covered with horticultural fleece. Mulch is also helpful for trees and shrubs, which stops the ground freezing when placed on the topsoil.
Keep your home toasty
We know that energy bills start to add up over winter. However, if you’re able to keep your central heating on for at least an hour a day, this will prevent your pipes from freezing. A lack of humidity is also a problem, which is known to crack and shrink the plaster in your home. That’s why investing in a humidifier helps to reduce the impact of cold weather damage.
Consider green home improvements
With the Green Homes Grant now in effect, why not find out if there’s anything you can do to get your home winter-ready? For example, proper insulation will reduce your energy bills and guarantee your home remains warm and damage-free while you wait for spring.
Seal your windows and doors
Repair any cracks or seals around your doors and windows in time for winter to avoid further damage. It’s also worth looking into weather stripping, which is a cheap and effective way to reduce heat loss and stop any draughts entering your home.
Maintain your home’s structural integrity
Sometimes, in extreme conditions, the freeze/thaw cycle causes the ground to shift, which can result in the concrete foundations of your home weakening or cracking. That’s why waterproofing your basement, repairing cracks as soon as they occur, and ensuring gutter or drainage issues are resolved is imperative for your home’s structural integrity.
We hope you found this how-to helpful. For more tips, tricks and advice, be sure to check out our blog.
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