Protect your home from winter wear and tear

Winter is always a tough season for homes and gardens, regardless of whether the local climate is wet or dry. Without the right preparation, storms, heavy winds, cold snaps and snow can cause lasting damage to a property, making winter proofing one of the best ways to protect the value of a home.

David Jacobs, Gauteng Regional Manager for the Rawson Property Group, shares some tips for getting your home ship-shape for winter.

One of the first chores to put on your winter checklist is clearing the debris from gutters and downpipes. This is particularly important in areas that experience winter rainfall as the weight of water in blocked gutters can rip them from roofs and walls.

“A side benefit of regular gutter-cleaning is that you can check your roof sheets or tiles at the same time,” he says. “Make sure there is nothing loose or missing, and that any flashings or joints are in good condition. If anything looks less than 100%, get a professional in to take look – sealing up any leaks before winter hits is essential to prevent water damage and icy, energy-sucking drafts.”

Jacobs also recommends taking a look inside roof spaces. Here, he suggests checking for signs of previous water damage that could indicate leaks that aren’t obvious from the outside.

“Points of light visible through the roof material are a dead giveaway that there are gaps that could need attention,” he says, “but also check the insulation or ceiling boards for tell-tale water stains.”

While you’re at it, you may want to confirm that your insulation hasn’t shifted or flattened over time – this can reduce its thermal efficiency and let valuable warmth escape your home as temperatures drop.

“It’s also a good idea to fit a geyser blanket and insulate any pipes that might freeze if temperatures go below zero,” says Jacobs. “Frozen pipes can burst and cause serious water damage when they defrost.”

Windows are another important area to protect against winter wear and tear. Leaky windows let the cold and rain in and the heat out of homes, and are one of the biggest sources of heat loss in most South African properties.

To prevent leaks, make sure the putty or gaskets that seal glass panes to the frames aren’t showing signs of cracking, and apply weatherproofing tape – available at most hardware stores – to any imperfect closures.

“Weatherproofing tape can be used to seal draughty doors as well as windows, but a simple, stuffed draft excluder can be just as effective,” he says. “Chimneys are a little more difficult to draft-proof, since they’re designed to draw air up and outward. Most models let you close the flue when not in use, though, which helps minimise heat loss.”

Remember to get your chimney swept before lighting your first fire of the season. Nothing says “miserable winter” quite like a chimney fire or a lounge choked with smoke, says Jacobs.

In the garden

Gardens also take a beating in winter, but proper preparation varies a little depending on your climate.

“In rainy, stormy regions, home owners need to prune their trees and bushes back from powerlines, roofs and gutters to avoid falling branches causing structural damage,” says Jacobs. “Those in colder, high-frost regions need to think more about protecting sensitive plants from cold damage, moving pots to sheltered areas or bringing them indoors.”

Regardless of your local climate, mulching flower beds is always a winter win, protecting roots from below-freezing temperatures and minimising rain-driven soil erosion. Covering or storing outdoor furniture is also a great way to prolong its lifespan.

No matter what kind of winter your home experiences, a little bit of preparation will see you well on your way to your cosiest season yet.