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Tony Levene is a renowned financial journalist, who has previously been a columnist for Guardian Money. He has written several books, including 'Investing for Dummies' and won the ABI Lifetime Achievement award and the Headline Money award.


Preparing for winter

Will this winter be as cold as last year? Perhaps not, as the 2010-11 winter was the worst in many parts for nearly 50 years.

But forecasting weather for the UK – uniquely caught between the Gulf Stream and the Eurasian land mass – is never easy. Anything could happen.

Quotation MarksThis flags up potential weak points on the “stitch in time saves nine” principle.Quotation Marks

And as far as the winter's effect on your home, all sorts of seasonally normal weather including rain and wind as well as abnormal snow and ice can
cause difficulties.

You can, however, help your property to weather the winter with my 10 point autumn checklist. This flags up potential weak points on the “stitch in time” principle – sort out small things now and they won't grow into bigger hassles later.

Prevent plumbing problems

  • Drain all outdoor pipes including water hoses. Remove plastic fittings – they weather badly – and store until spring. Surround outdoor taps in insulation and bubble wrap.
  • Know where the main water tap is for your property. You might have two – one inside and one outside your home.
  • If you go on holiday during the winter, either shut the water off and drain the water tank completely or leave the heating on at 12 degrees (about 55F). Pour dishwasher salt down waste pipes and drains to help prevent freezing if you are away for any length of time.

Avoid guttering and pipe problems

  • If you have faulty gutters – they may be insecurely fixed or leaky – or downpipes which are not water-tight, then winter weather will only make their condition worse. This could lead to damp in your house. So inspect the exterior during or just after rain.
  • Ensure rainwater drains are clear of leaves and other debris.

Inspect your roof

  • Loose or worn tiles or slates will not get any better so they will need attention.
  • Flat roof areas are particularly susceptible to wear and leaks

Check your brickwork

  • Ensure the mortar between bricks is solid. If you can remove any with a screwdriver, then that area will need re-pointing to prevent cracking and damp during wet or cold weather.

Give your windows a workout

  • Check to see that all windows open and close easily.
  • Look at windows to see if there are cracks between the window and the brickwork.

Don't ignore indoor security

  • Make sure all window locks work and you know where the keys are
  • Replace batteries in smoke and carbon dioxide detectors
  • Have burglar alarms and other devices inspected

Sort out your garden

  • Ensure tools are securely locked away – spades and forks can be used to break into your home
  • Drain petrol from motor mowers and similar appliances
  • Cut back tree branches that overhang your house or outhouses.
  • Inspect outdoor lighting and other wiring
  • Remove ground rubbish such as plastic bags that could cause water to build up
  • Take care of valuable plants – either wrap them (garden centres sell specialist material) or bring them into your home or greenhouse.

Inspect and clean chimneys

  • If you have an open fire, ensure the chimneys are clean and free from any debris.
  • Unused chimneys may need capping to prevent birds and rodents nesting

Service heating systems

  • As well as ensuring your heating works when you need it, this can save money on fuel as your system will be more efficient.

Know what to do in an emergency

  • Ensure your torches have usable batteries – remember rechargeable batteries often go flat – and that you know where they are!
  • Have a supply of candles and matches in a known place
  • Tinned food and bottled water can prove handy if you are snowbound – and don't forget dried food for pets.
  • Make a list of useful phone numbers including plumbers, electricians, utility companies – and your insurance company.

And don't forget to check your insurance policy to ensure it is up to date with any changes you've recently made to your home and contents. Insurance is designed to deal with the unforeseen such as fire and flood. It is not a maintenance contract so a policy can't be expected to pay for the repair of a worn out roof or sort out fallen guttering that's been hanging dangerously for months or even years.

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This article was written by Tony Levene and any opinions are his independent view and not the opinion of John Lewis Insurance or the John Lewis Partnership. 

Terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions and acceptance criteria apply.

John Lewis Insurance is a trading name of John Lewis plc. Registered office: 171 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5NN. Registered in England (No. 233462). John Lewis plc is an appointed representative of Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc. John Lewis Home Insurance is underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc (No. 93792). Registered in England and Wales at St. Mark's Court, Chart Way, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 1XL. Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (Financial Services Register No. 202323). Calls may be recorded and monitored.

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