Winter is always a tough season for homes and gardens, regardless of whether your local climate is wet or dry. Without the right preparation, storms, heavy winds, cold snaps and snow can cause lasting damage to your property, making winter proofing one of the best ways to protect the value of your home.
David Jacobs, Gauteng Regional Manager for the Rawson Property Group, shares his top tips on what to do to get your home ship-shape for winter.
On the roof
According to Jacobs, one of the first chores to put on your winter checklist is hauling out the old ladder and clearing the year’s debris from your gutters and downpipes. This, he says, is particularly important in areas that experience winter rainfall as the weight of water in blocked gutters can literally rip them from your 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.”
In the roof space
While your ladder is out of storage, Jacobs recommends using it to take a look inside your roof space as well. 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 your roof material are a dead giveaway that there are gaps that could need attention,” he says, “but also check your 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 have a nasty habit of bursting and causing serious water damage when they defrost.”
Inside your home
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,” says Jacobs. “In fact, they’re one of the biggest sources of heat loss in most South African properties.”
To prevent leaks, make sure the putty or gaskets that seal your glass panes to your frames aren’t showing signs of cracking, and apply weatherproofing tape (available at most hardware stores) to any imperfect closures.
Windows aren’t the only culprit when it comes to drafts, however. Jacobs says doors and even chimneys can let warm air out if you’re not careful.
“Weatherproofing tape can be used to seal drafty 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.”
Don’t forget 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.
In the garden
Gardens also take a beating in winter, but proper preparation varies a little depending on your climate.
“In rainy, stormy regions, homeowners 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 your 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.