Décor & Gardening
Plan ahead to avoid the worst of winter
South Africa’s temperate climate means that for most of us this means breaking out a heavier duvet or putting more blankets on the bed. But are there any other practical steps you can or should be taking to prepare for the change of season?
Financial services company, DirectAxis, gathered tips from some handymen about common problems that can occur during winter and how to prevent these.
The advice covered three broad themes: planning ahead, preventative maintenance and conserving heat.
The laws of supply and demand dictate that if you wait until temperatures plummet before stocking up on firewood or getting more gas for the gas heater, you’ll pay more. Alternatively, you’ll be faced with Murphy’s law and the supplier will have run out.
Buying winter essentials such as firewood, gas or even replacing old or broken heaters is best done before the weather turns cold.
Also, bear in mind that power cuts are more likely in winter either because high winds blow trees across power lines or increased demand puts strain on electrical infrastructure.
These are much easier to deal with if you’ve got working torches and batteries in the house. Rechargeable solar LED lights are also a good idea, as long as you make sure they’re charged.
A skottelbraai or gas-fuelled camping set is quick to set up and easy to cook on when the power goes out, but entirely useless if you’ve run out of gas. Check.
If you bought a generator or an uninterrupted power supply system during the days of load-shedding, test them to make sure they still work.
All the handymen agreed that preventing problems is always less expensive than fixing them afterwards.
You can do most preventative maintenance yourself at little or no cost, although it’s best to get professional help if you’re unsure how to go about it or don’t have the right tools.
Simple maintenance includes making sure gutters are clear of leaves and other debris. The weight of water in clogged gutters can break the brackets that support them. The backed up water also needs to go somewhere. If you’re lucky it’ll just pour over the side. If not, the wind can blow it up under the tiles potentially damaging ceilings and fittings.
While you’re checking the gutters also take a careful look at the roof for missing, broken or shifted tiles or other issues that could result in leaks or the wind getting in and potentially causing more damage.
If you are looking forward to a nice roaring fire, check your chimney. You should be looking for blockages such as birds’ nests and soot build up. If there does seem to be excessive soot, it’s worth considering getting in a professional rather than risking a fire in the chimney.
Take a walk around the house and check for any trees that might blow over or branches that could break off and damage the house. You may be able to trim some yourself, but if you’re in doubt get in a professional tree feller.
While you’re doing your walk-around check the outside lighting. This is a sensible security precaution because it gets dark earlier in winter. Not only will well-lit paths and approaches potentially discourage criminals but will help prevent you, your family or guests tripping and falling on cold winter nights or early mornings.
Whether you’re using a gas or electric heater, or a fire to warm your house, heating costs money.
The first thing to consider if you want to save heat and money is to make sure the house is well insulated. If you don’t have insulation in your ceiling, it’s worth considering. It’ll keep the heat in during winter and keep you cool in summer. If you have insulation, check to make sure it hasn’t shifted, been torn or damaged.
While you’re in the ceiling, check to see if there’s a cover on the geyser. If not, you may want to think about getting one. Heating water is also expensive.
Once you’ve dealt with the roof space, check doors and windows. It’s relatively cheap and effective to fit self-adhesive rubber seals to the bottom of draughty doors and to fix window’s that aren’t sealing properly or repair weather strips. A simple sausage-dog draft excluder is easy to make and will stop cold air getting in under doors.
Another tip is to use your curtains. Open them when the sun’s shining and warming the house. Close them when it’s dark and cold, they help prevent the warm air escaping.
Consider the placement of your furniture. It may be great to have the sofa in front of the heater, particularly for the people sitting on it, but this may prevent the warm air circulating to the rest of the room.
DirectAxis marketing head, Marlies Kappers, says preparing for winter doesn’t need to cost a fortune.
‘Some sensible spending before it gets cold might mean avoiding bigger costs when a tree falls down or a gutter breaks in the middle of winter.”
For more information on household maintenance and renovations visit: https://www.directaxis.co.za/make-a-plan/prioritise-home-maintenance
Get it JHB West – May 2018