Avoid getting snowed under with property issues this winter
2020 was undoubtedly a challenging year, and while many of us may have hoped for a less turbulent start to 2021, the weather unfortunately hasn’t been in our favour. Since the beginning of January, the UK, particularly the North of England and Scotland, has been tackling snowfall and temperatures below zero. With London and the south of England blanketed in snow recently, and the Met Office predicting more over the coming weeks, the risk of property damage being caused by freezing and damp is heightened. Therefore it is advisable that residents and property managers take action to safeguard premises in order to prevent problems occurring.
Winter weather has a habit of exacerbating many property issues. For example, heavy snowfall may slowly melt and result in water entering the building through cracks or holes in the roof. And, if drains and gutters are not clear of leaves, moss and other debris, waterflow will be restricted, potentially leading to penetrating damp problems. What’s more, if temperatures rise and snow melts and then refreezes, ice dams can form on the edge of roofs and in the guttering. This can prevent rain runoff and lead to water seeping into the property or into the walls. If masonry becomes soaked and this is then followed by a cold snap, the moisture may turn to ice, which will expand and could lead to the masonry becoming ‘spalled’ and the face delaminating.
It’s advisable to regularly check drains and gutters, and the area around your guttering, are clear to ensure water can flow away; this will also help prevent ice dams from forming. Also consider checking your pointing and rendering are all in place, as rain or snow could enter a building if it is loose or damaged.
Frost can bite
Frost can also cause damage to a property. This is more common in unoccupied buildings where the heating isn’t running or the lack of human activity allows indoor temperatures to drop significantly. If the interior temperature falls below zero the water pipes can freeze, causing them to burst.
If you have left a property unoccupied its important to leave the heating on the ‘frost’ setting or set with a timer for at least an hour a day. This will help maintain indoor temperatures above freezing and prevent water expanding as it freezes and damaging pipes.
Also consider insulating external pipes and loft areas, for example by opening the loft trap door to ensure warm air is circulating, and therefore won’t be susceptible to frost damage.
Tell-tale signs of water ingress
While conditions are cold, if you notice any walls are damp, contain deposits of salts (which will become visible as white or grey stains), decorations feel chalky or flaky, or brown water stains are emerging, it’s likely there is water ingress and your building needs additional damp proofing. It’s important to understand the full extent of any damp problems that are occurring as failure to do so could result in the issue resurfacing, and potentially causing more damage. Recent research from Peter Cox discovered that over a fifth (21%) of UK adults admitted they have tried to fix a damp issue by simply papering or painting over the problem area.
Checking for and repairing defective pointing, masonry and rainwater systems is the first line of defence. If the masonry is porous, consider calling in the experts to fit a Cavity Drain Membrane. This is a great solution against water ingress, designed to control both damp and water vapour above ground and the penetration of below groundwater.
Regularly inspecting your property for the early warning signs of damp is essential. The longer any repairs against water ingress are ignored, the greater the risk to your property. If you’re unsure of how to spot these signs yourself, enlist the help of a property specialist – it will give you peace of mind and ensure that problems are not able to develop undetected. Peter Cox offers a number of damp proofing and structural repair solutions that are cost-effective, clean and non-intrusive, with a range of techniques to solve problems tailored appropriately to different types of property.
Find out more about our services here.