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  • How to protect your home from storm damage

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  • Although the UK is generally spared some of the world’s more extreme weather events, we do have to put up with long periods of rain and wind or even storms, especially during the winter months.

    Though the weather might be out of your control, you can take steps to protect your home, and ensure it doesn't wreak havoc this winter. Watch our video for tips on how to do just that.

     

    Protect your home from Brian, Caroline, Dylan and co.

    So why do we name our storms? Well, we're into the third year of the Met Office's "name our storms" project, which follows the US conventions of naming hurricanes, in which the aim is to increase awareness of any severe weather to aid with ensuring greater public safety.

    As of the 1st October the following storm names will come into effect, and will last until September next year when a new list is drawn together:

    Aileen, Brian, Caroline, Dylan, Eleanor, Fionn, Georgina, Hector, Iona, James, Karen, Larry, Maeve, Niall, Octavia, Paul, Rebecca, Simon, Tali, Victor and Winifred.

    Carry on reading for tips on how you can prepare your home for incoming storms.



    How can I find out if a storm is coming?

    While powerful gusts of wind and prolonged downpours are regular features of our notorious British climate, anything that counts as a severe weather warning, like floods or heavy snowfall, will be clearly communicated on TV news shows, the radio and newspapers. The Met Office even has a dedicated Twitter account (@metofficestorms) to warn people about storms, or you can use a smartphone app like Dark Sky to find winter weather predictions at your fingertips.

    Winter 2013/14 was the wettest on record, with 435mm of rain falling between December and February, and early forecasts suggest this winter is set to be just as bad. Long periods of extreme weather are likely to cause damage to property as a result of floods or strong gales. You can find out whether your home is at risk of flooding thanks to the free service from the Land Registry.


    How to protect your home against storm damage

    The simplest way to protect your home from storm damage is to walk around your house and garden and try to spot any obvious potential issues. Trees uprooted by strong winds can damage roof tiles and fences, or blow over onto the family car. With that in mind, be sure to keep your vehicles in the garage if you have one, and contact a tree surgeon to prune back any loose or dead branches from trees. Scrutinise gutters and soffits, shake fence posts and take a step back to look at the lead flashing on the roof – is anything loose or cracked? Compromised roof tiles or damaged guttering will be the first casualties of severe weather, so get them repaired before wind or rain arrive. And make sure all fences are as secure as possible. It's best to call a professional to help you make the necessary repairs.

    Don't get too carried away – satellite dishes and TV/radio aerials tend to be in fixed positions so it isn't realistic to have them taken down, but you can avoid smashed windows by storing flower pots and garden gnomes in the shed after a forecast of severe weather. Garden furniture and trampolines can also be casualties of strong winds, so when winter starts to get wild, dismantle them and store the parts indoors. Similar precautions should apply to patio heaters, bird tables or anything else that could potentially be knocked over by a strong wind.

    One thing that can be predicted is the way harsh winter weather, like ice and snow, can severely damage fragile and high-value items. Empty any water features you have so that ice can’t crack the pipes or containers, and clear icy paths and driveways with grit. Cover up your BBQ or any aluminium furniture to protect them from rust. It's essential that lawnmowers and other motorised or electrical garden items aren't left outside, where exposure to stormy conditions may lead to failure and potential danger.

    Ice can be another enemy to your home over the winter months, freezing pipes and causing internal flooding. Prevention is key here; make sure your garden hose is disconnected from the spigot in winter, and keep your heater on a timer – just an hour a day can go a long way towards stopping your pipes freezing up, making it an easy way to protect your home. 

    It's important not to wait to protect your home until a weather warning indicates storms are on the way – it’s easy to eliminate many of the risks posed by severe weather well in advance.


    Protecting your home in the long-term

    In addition to the above, there are lots of things you can do to try and protect your home from storms in the long-term. Sheds and garages are ideal for the safe storage of your outdoor items during the winter, so it's essential that these timber outbuildings can withstand protracted downpours and severe weather. Be sure to creosote them every year and make sure the roof is securely fastened in place - always seek the advice of a professional before attempting this yourself. Try to avoid hanging items from your shed roof, and don’t store electrical items at ground level as they could get wet. As with houses, damaged guttering or cracked windows in outbuildings can be particularly susceptible to storms.

    Next, seal any gaps in outer walls or foundations with foam or caulk to prevent cold air and water entering your home, and invest in heat tape, which you can run around the underside of your guttering to prevent ice from forming. Have your pipes protected in the long-term with insulation, and if you go away for a long period of time, consider turning off your stop tap to avoid water flowing through pipes and freezing. Ensure that everyone in your household knows how to turn off your water, gas and electricity supplies.

    Finally, it’s worth paying attention to other people’s gardens as well as your own. Storms don’t respect plot boundaries, and severe weather can often forcibly relocate wheelie bins or ladders into surrounding gardens. Your neighbour may not even be aware if they have missing roof tiles or loose satellite dishes, because you can see their house from angles they can’t. Good neighbours generally appreciate potential problems being brought to their attention, giving them time to effect repairs before the wind whips up this winter.