Checklist: How to winter proof your home

With the cold weather now upon us (for those of us in the northern hemisphere!), RICS is advising homeowners to check their properties to help stop the predicted harsh weather from taking its toll on their property, heating and maintenance bills.

Europe snow map

In the UK, long range weather forecasters have advised people to prepare for heavy and persistent snow for up to three months, with winter 2013 set to be the worst in more than 60 years.

Properties are vulnerable to attack both from the outside elements and the moist, warm conditions that build-up inside during the winter months, so now is an ideal opportunity to prepare.

The outside of a house takes a battering in the winter so a realistic, 360 degree assessment of its current condition is advisable – think roof, walls, floors, windows and doors and repair, seal or insulate where possible.

However, letting a property breath the warm air out is as important as stopping the cold air from coming in.  Today’s lifestyle of showers, washing up, periodic short bouts of heating throughout the day and a lack of ventilation can lead to a build-up of what amounts to litres of water daily that forms condensation and damp on window sills, furniture and walls. 

This problem can be prevented by simply opening the windows every now and then.  Unfortunately security and ventilation are conflicting requirements. Chartered building surveyor Roy Ilott*

The RICS winter property checklist includes:


  •         Inspect the roof and replace any cracked tiles
  •         If chimney pots are in place but not in-use consider protecting them, by fitting ventilated cowls


  •         Check the insulation is in good condition
  •         Avoid over insulating. It is important that the tanks and pipes in the loft do not freeze, so do not insulate below the tank
  •         Make sure the lid is on the cold-water tank. 

Gutters and drains

  •         Clear them of leaves and debris.  Take particular care that the gulleys are clear
  •         Overflowing gutters can drench walls and cause damage


  •         33% of heat lost in the home is through the walls. Cavity wall insulation is a good option and can boost its value and saleability while reducing your energy bills
  •         Check the pointing – frost can play havoc with poorly maintained walls
  •         Make sure water can run off the building; fill gaps to cement angle fillets at wall junctions

External paving

  •         In very cold weather water on paving will freeze
  •         Ensure the paving is well drained and avoid water collecting, freezing and causing accidents.


  •         Check that it hasn’t obstructed air bricks and gulleys


  •         Check perimeters of all windows to make sure water flows away from glass and doesn’t collect on the sill, or drain behind it
  •         It is important to minimize drafts.  If double-glazing is not in place (it cuts heat loss through windows by 50 percent), consider fitting cheaper options such as secondary glazing or put polythene across the window frames
  •         Curtains can make a big difference to heat loss


  •         Stop draughts through letterboxes by fitting a cover and put a sealant around the door frames

Floor boards

  •         If there are stripped floors in place consider putting down rugs in the winter to reduce drafts up between the boards
  •         Heating systems

And finally, check your heating system is in order; service boilers, insulate hot water tanks, and bleed radiators.

While many of these simple tasks can be undertaken safely in the home it is important that people seek the advice of reputable professionals when looking to complete larger jobs.

We also advise people to avoid using builders and tradespeople who cold call.  

* Chartered building surveyor Roy Ilott FRICS started his own building surveying practice in 1980 after gaining 14 years experience, mainly in maintenance. Since then he has accumulated further experience in surveys, repairs, alterations and extensions to properties of all ages and types.

Jaclyn Dunstan
Corporate and Member Communications Manager (RICS)
29 Nov 2013