Winter temperatures and holiday properties don’t mix and match very well. In fact, some of the most disastrous events that occur as a part of cottage ownership generally happen during the colder months where humid air, icy conditions, and the weight of sleet and snow can crush delicate surfaces that traditional cottages are made out of. Fortunately, there are some preventative measures that holiday property owners can take to ensure any damages that result from changing seasons are kept to an absolute minimum.
1. Brick Care
Most traditional cottage buildings were built out of brick, which are particularly susceptible to water damage due to their porous nature. This means the slightest chip, dent, or crack will expand and create bigger problems as the damage becomes further ingrained. Freezing conditions make this even more problematic as frozen water expands under low temperatures and will exert additional pressure on any structure around it resulting in deeper, wider, and more costly cracks.
This is a particular concern for a cottage’s chimney system, which can traditionally be one of the few sources of heat available to these properties. Signs that a cottage’s chimney is experiencing brick damage include “wet” smells coming from the flue, broken pieces of masonry in the firebox, and visible dampness or stains around the interior walls. Left untreated, these will soon infiltrate through the chimney structure and a full rebuild will be required for excess damage. The sooner property owners can address this situation, the cheaper and more effective the results can be without resorting to a complete replacement.
In any cases of brick damage to a chimney structure, professionals should be called to address the situation as soon as possible. This is not only to ensure a good result, but also the safety of cottage occupants who may expose themselves to noxious substances and a significantly increased internal fire risk. Annual inspections should be carried out as a bare minimum by certified professionals such as those at The Chimney Scientist.
2. Pipe Care
Burst pipes are another key wintertime damage resulting from inadequate preventative maintenance. Holiday properties that are left unoccupied for any amount of time should have the main water supply shut off as a bare minimum. This is done by locating the stopcock, which is usually housed underneath the kitchen sink, then turning it completely to the off position. Property owners are also advised to drain the pipes of the remaining water supply by leaving a series of taps running for a period of at least five minutes or until the taps are running dry. This ensures any damage resulting from freezing conditions won’t result in a catastrophic leak causing substantial property damage.
It is also wise for property owners to leave central heating systems operating on low temperatures during known cold snaps. While this will add an extra running cost to maintaining a vacation home, it provides a positive economy by ensuring internal plumbing systems are less susceptible to damage relating to freezing internal temperatures. The very minor cost of having heating on during the winter season is minuscule in comparison to burst pipes and masonry repairs.
Additional options should be explored if a homeowner’s vacation property is located in a particularly cold area. External pipe lagging is a popular choice that provides a layer of insulation between sensitive copper pipes and the atmosphere around it. Again, these should be installed by certified professionals and both tradesmen and systems can be found at www.heatline.com.
Winter is a great time to enjoy your vacation property. Don’t be the victim of the season and take preventative action now to ensure comfortable occupation during the colder months!