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Preparing your house and garden: let the winter begin

Susanne Loacker

Before it gets really cold, there are a few things you should do and check in and around the house to make sure you will get through the cold season warm and safe.

The picture shows a snowy lawn surrounded by a box hedge.
© Getty Images / EyeEm

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If you want to get yourself and your property ready for the winter, you should start by checking the insulation and preparing the garden accordingly. There are also a number of other details to pay attention to. Here you will find seven tips.

1. Check the roof

It sounds obvious, but when it starts to snow, the house should be sealed from above. Leaks must be repaired, and any missing tiles replaced by a roofer. Just ask your neighbors if they will let you take a look at your roof from their house. Thanks to a pair of binoculars, it won’t take long – and will save you from having to hire a specialist company. If a roofer is coming anyway, or if you have a good head for heights, it can be a good idea to carry out an inspection on the roof itself: is the aerial intact? Is the solar system in good condition? Are the gutters empty? Gutters can get clogged up with leaves in the fall – this is especially problematic in rainy weather.

2. Check the heating

By the fall at the latest, you should check the heating system and carry out any necessary maintenance. The oil tank needs to be refilled, and the radiators vented. In the winter it makes sense and also saves energy to keep all rooms at a more or less constant temperature – if you have to heat individual rooms from zero to one hundred, so to speak, this will consume more resources.

The picture shows a bedroom with a radiator under a windowsill.

Radiators should be ventilated in the fall to make sure the heating system will work properly during the winter.

3. Minimize drafts

On a windy day, use a candle or incense stick to detect drafts in the house. Even a simple draft stop – for example from Wenko, available for 44.90 francs at Ackermann (price on 05 November 2020) – is extremely useful to prevent drafts under doors. If doors no longer close properly, simply tighten the hinges with a screwdriver. Seals made of silicone or rubber on windows shouldn’t crumble, but they will become brittle over time. That’s why you should maintain them with oil at regular intervals and replace them if necessary. Don’t forget the windows in the attic and basement, where drafts also cause unnecessary cold.

4. Check the lighting

In the summer, artificial light isn’t an issue – but as soon as it starts getting darker, lighting plays an essential role. This doesn’t just mean that you should replace that defective light bulb above the dining table: it’s also worth checking the exterior lighting around the house. Anyone who has ever had to search desperately for the keyhole in the sleet on a dark evening with a soaked shopping bag on their arm will appreciate the advantages of motion-activated outdoor lighting.

Solar versions of this type of motion detector light are practical as they don’t require any connections, but they are nowhere near as bright. Install the required number of lamps and align existing ones so that movements are detected in the right place. It makes sense not to aim the lamps too low, otherwise every single prowling cat will trigger the motion detector at night. Remember to illuminate any outside steps and the garage entrance.

5. Eliminate water as a danger

If you have an outdoor water supply, turn off the corresponding tap in the basement and leave the water on outside until the pipe is empty. You should also cover any outdoor containers that usually get filled with rainwater, because the water will burst the sides if it freezes. Also check drains and grids. If they are clogged with dirt and leaves, water will accumulate, which can also cause damage when it freezes.

The picture shows a stone fountain in front of a red brick wall.

The water pipes should be emptied for the winter if possible, otherwise there is a risk of damage. All you have to do is turn off the water in the basement, leave the tap on for a while, and that’s it.

6. Prepare for slippery ice

Clear any paths around the house – even if it hasn’t snowed yet, wet and rotting leaves are extremely slippery. It’s best to prepare for snow early. Otherwise you risk losing out, because gritting material and snow shovels quickly become sold out as soon as the snow arrives.

Road salt is of course practical. But even if you don’t have any pets yourself – the neighbors’ animals will thank you if you use gravel, grit or sand instead of salt. However, regularly clearing snow from the ground is the safest way to get through the winter relatively slip-free. This doesn’t help with black ice caused by sleet, but it is useful for icy, uneven surfaces.

7. Ensure comfort and coziness indoors

Even if a cozy interior has no impact on the objectively measurable room temperature, subjectively speaking, coziness provides warmth. Discreet, warm, preferably decentralized lighting enhances the effect. Soft blankets and large cushions on the sofa and fluffy carpets on the floor emphasize the cozy atmosphere. Fragrances can also add to the impression of comfort when you come home. However, you should be cautious with scents if you have pets.

Conclusion: as long as everything is ready, let the winter begin. You don’t have to like this season of the year, but if everything around the house is in order, you’ll feel much better about it.

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