Preparing your property for winter

  • Winter brings with it a number of additional risks for property owners and managers to consider
  • From burst pipes to broken boilers, cold weather can lead to major damage and disruption
  • We look at some basic precautions you can take to prepare your property for winter weather

During winter months, property owners and occupiers face a number of increased risks.

Large escape of water losses are especially common, with wintry conditions and freezing temperatures leading to burst pipes, cracked water tanks and blocked drains.

Even more common minor problems, such as boiler breakdowns, can result in significant disruption to residents and your organisation, costing valuable time and resources to manage.

By taking the following precautions, you can help minimise the risk to your properties and increase their resilience to wintry weather.

1. Maintenance and general preparations

  • Routine building inspections should be carried out year- round to identify potential issues and undertake essential maintenance. Your formal risk assessment should inform the frequency of these inspections
  • During autumn, special attention should be given to areas such as roof insulation, pipe lagging, boiler maintenance and the external fabric of the building
  • Implement regular maintenance contracts for tasks such as the clearing of gutters and drains. This will limit the risk of blockages that can lead to water penetrating your building
  • Keep building plans that identify stopcock locations readily available. This will enable water to be quickly shut off in an emergency
  • Check your roof for potential problems such as loose, cracked or missing tiles. You can survey the roof from the ground, to see if anything’s obviously wrong – look out for shards of tile or grit in the gutters and on the floor – but it’s best to get a professional to fully survey
  • Keep a careful eye on trees that could fall onto the property in stormy weather

2. Water heating systems

  • Always leave boilers and other water heating systems running during winter months, even when a property is temporarily unoccupied
  • Maintaining an ambient temperature is essential for avoiding many issues. We recommend maintaining a minimum temperature of 10°C throughout your properties
  • Activate your thermostat’s frost setting. This prompts the system to come on automatically during cold weather, which might otherwise not happen if your thermostat is only set to come on at certain times of the day
  • Check when you last carried out a full service. Heating systems, and particularly boilers, need to be inspected and maintained on a regular basis

3. Pipes and water tanks

  • Inspect your whole system for potential defects or vulnerabilities. Pay particular attention to areas exposed to cold conditions, such as pipes or tanks situated outside the property or in roof spaces
  • Ensure exposed pipes and water tanks are adequately lagged. This provides essential protection against freezing conditions
  • Insulate or fully drain outdoor taps between uses

4. Sprinkler systems

  • Ensure that heating is present in your sprinkler valve room and it is kept at an ambient temperature
  • During winter months switch your alternate systems to air (recommended November to May)
  • Check when your sprinkler system was last serviced. Ensure sprinklers receive full and regular maintenance

5. Permanently unoccupied properties

  • If permanently unoccupied, we recommend disconnecting your property’s water supplies and draining all pipes, tanks and heating systems
  • However, if only temporarily unoccupied, heating systems should always be left on, to maintain an ambient temperature and avoid freezing or cracking
  • Ensure doors and windows are closed and fit tightly

Helping tenants

The more informed your tenants are about winter problems, the better they can look after your property. It may be worth putting together an advice pack for tenants – particularly those who may not have owned their own home before.

Include advice on heating timers and the risks of potential damage and make sure they know where the stopcock is in case of an emergency. Advice on mould prevention is also useful, such as ensuring proper ventilation, heating and the removal of condensation.