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How to Protect Your Holiday Home from the Elements

Purchasing property abroad is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make. Naturally you want to protect that investment, especially when your holiday home is left unoccupied and is more susceptible to threats.

If your house is left empty for long periods of time, small issues such as minor leaks or cracked glass can quickly spiral out of control and turn disastrous. This is especially true of holiday homes, which often stand empty during the coldest seasons—when leaks occur most frequently.

Here are some tips to ensure that your property is sufficiently weather-proofed:

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1. Prepare for cold weather

Prepare your holiday home for cold weather, Towergate

Cold weather is the bane of many beautiful homes. A pipe that’s frozen during an unexpected cold snap is liable to burst and flood your property, which could result in tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage. Statistically, this is the most common threat unoccupied homes face.

To prepare your home for cold weather, here’s what you can do:

1. Insulate your pipes and cisterns. Known as “pipe lagging,” insulating your pipes and hot water cylinders with waterproof material will help prevent t hem from freezing.

2. Drain down pipes and central heating systems. Even after they’re turned off, pipes and heating systems retain some water in them. Call a plumber to help you drain this excess fluid.

3. Keep your property heated. Leaving your heating on at approximately 130C will help prevent water from freezing in the pipes.

4. Service your boiler. Your boiler should receive annual maintenance to prevent breakdowns.

5. Seal windows and doors. Seal all drafts with fresh caulk.

6. Check for leaks. Perform regular check-ups on your water pipes, showers, baths, dishwashers, washing machines, etc. to ensure that nothing is leaking.

7. Clean your gutters and drains. Clogged gutters and drains might overflow and could crack if the water freezes. You should clean your gutters both before and after each winter.

If you’re leaving your property vacant all winter long, it’s a good idea to have a friend or neighbour check in on your home regularly. You should also know where your stop cock is, just in case you need to call a plumber for an emergency.

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2. Protect against wind

Wind is a threat that’s commonly overlooked, but if your holiday home is located somewhere that might experience heavy gusts, battening down the hatches can potentially save you from property damage and an expensive lawsuit.

To safeguard your home from the wind:

Man repairing roof of holiday home, Towergate

1. Check your roof for loose or damaged tiles. Damaged roof tiles are at risk of turning into a leak, or blowing away and injuring someone. Make sure your roof is in good repair.

2. Prune your trees. Trees add a lovely aesthetic to a home’s exterior, but they’re also a threat when the wind picks up. Prune your trees to keep rogue branches away from your windows and nearby power lines.

3. Fix your fencing. If your property has a fence with any loose boards, nail them down to prevent them from collapsing during windstorms.

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3. Safeguard against fire hazards

Fire hazards, while less common in homes that aren't regularly using their stove or appliances, might still be a threat if the property isn't well-maintained. To help prevent fires, you can:

1. Test your fire and carbon monoxide alarms. Make sure they’re all in working order and supply them with fresh batteries.

2. Sweep your chimney. A clean chimney is essential for avoiding chimney fires. If you notice that the flashings around the chimney are loose or damaged, make sure to repair them.

3. Check your power outlets. Surge protectors can safeguard your electronics from power surges, and unplugging your appliances (save the fridge and freezer) while you’re away will both help prevent fires and save energy.

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4. Plan for the worst


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Holiday home insurance

A good holiday home insurance plan and precautionary measures are essential for your holiday home’s security. That’s why we’ve created a checklist for securing your holiday home, to grant you peace of mind no matter where in the world you might be.

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About the author

James Cooper is a respected industry leader with over 10 years' experience in the home and property insurance sector. He works across a broad range of insurance product and policy development and delivery, including product development; customer sales and marketing; and P&L accountability.