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Prepare for a claim free winter

.......even more vital if you have a listed property

With the floods affecting the West Country already and the nights drawing in, it is time to prepare for the onslaught of winter and make your home a safe and cosy haven. By taking the time now you can help reduce the risk of damage and enjoy a claim free winter.

Many insurers report a rise of up to 60% in the number of claims made during the winter months. Last year homes, businesses and vehicles were all damaged as a result of the harsh weather we encountered. Winter can be particularly damaging to our homes and listed buildings – even though they have stood the test of time – can be even more at risk.

When temperatures plummet, pipes and tanks are left vulnerable as the extreme cold can cause them to freeze and break, causing significant water damage. As listed properties were built long before today's regulations came into play, pipes are often buried just below the surface which means that temperatures do not have to fall by much before they cause damage.

It isn't just the cold which causes problems, storms, heavy rainfall, high winds and the sheer weight of snow and ice can all result in damage to your property. Strangely, research indicates that we are more likely to consider precautions against fire and theft than water damage caused by burst pipes!

Whilst damage caused by burst or leaking pipes is covered under most insurance policies, the cost of damage quickly adds up. The average cost of repairing damage caused by burst pipes is £2,000 – and this doesn't take into account the massive amount of upheaval and stress involved. Doesn't it therefore make sense to take some precautions to minimise the risks? A few pointers are:

> Regularly check your pipes and central heating

> Find out where your main stop cock is: apparently 1 in 3 people do not know where this is located – and it is vital in the event of a burst pipe.( Often you can find this under the kitchen sink and there should also be an access point outside too)

> Remember to make sure all your pipes are lagged properly – especially in areas prone to the cold, such as lofts

> Use insulating jackets for water tanks and boilers

> Repair and dripping taps and don't forget to look after outside taps and lag them properly

> If you are planning to go away over the winter period, even for a short break, leave the heating on at a low level, not on a timer. This will keep the pipes at a constant temperature and allow warm air to circulate around the house. Most insurers will stipulate a minimum temperature.

Many of the worst problems occur when the thaw sets in. If you are away from your home it is sensible to arrange for a friend of relative to check your property regularly and ensure the water and heating systems are functioning correctly. Any irregularities can then be dealt with quickly before any damage is caused.

All properties need regular maintenance to protect them from water damage – and this is particularly true with older properties which can be prone to damp, decay and flooding. Whilst many insurers will stipulate that your listed property is regularly checked, extra preventative measures are essential to keep you claim free. With another harsh winter forecasted, now is the time to take action. A few useful ways to safeguard your property include:

> Use a roof rake to clear snow from the roof to prevent ice dams forming

> Inspect your roof and replace any missing or broken tiles and patch any areas of damage to thatch

> Clean gutters and down-pipes. A build up of leaves can cause blockages, which teamed with the weight of snow can mean they can will pull away from the wall and allow water and snow to fall behind

> Trim overhanging and dead branches as the weight of snow and heavy winds can cause branches to snap and damage surrounding property and vehicles

> Clean your chimney and stock up on the right fuel for your fire or wood burner

> If you are planning a long trip away, notify your insurer. Most policies do not cover a property that has been unoccupied for more than 30 days – and your insurer can also advise you how the property should be left whilst you are away

If your property is listed, you need professional insurance advice. Westhill Insurance Services can provide you with grounded and sensible advice to protect your home, not only from the elements but also from the risk of theft and fire. Talk to the team at Westhill Insurance Services and make sure you don't get bitten by Jack Frost this year!

Contact Westhill Insurance Services, today.

Posted on 23rd November, 2010