Winter home worries and how to stop them

From condensation to a burst pipe or broken down boiler, here's how to solve common winter home mishaps

House covered in snow
(Image credit: getty images)

Cold and rain cause all sorts of bother with homes, which can be incredibly expensive to fix.

So, here are a few common seasonal household maladies, and some tips on how to prevent them.


Condensation is a blight on homes during the winter. It can lead to damp, causing window frames to rot and mould to flourish – more on that in a bit.

It’s caused by warm moisture in the air condensing as it hits cold surfaces like windows, walls, mirrors or ceilings, forming water droplets – it’s like having a micro water cycle in your home.

A prime culprit for this is drying clothes on radiators, but it can also be caused by seemingly harmless things like cooking and cleaning.


  • When you’re cooking in the kitchen, close the door to stop water getting into colder places. Make sure that your kitchen is well-ventilated – open a window, put your extractor fan on or open the back door if it backs onto your garden.
  • Try to avoid drying clothes on your radiators if you can. If you can’t, put them in a well-ventilated room.
  • Get your windows open at least once a day to let in some air and open up your trickle vents if you have them.


Condensation leads to the gross, fungal build-up commonly known as mould. It’s a real pain to get rid of and can wreak long-term damage on your home, as well as affecting your health.


  • If you spot mould, wipe down the wall with some antifungal cleanser, available from supermarkets and DIY stores.
  • Cupboards are a prime spot for mould to build up – if any of your clothes have been affected, get them dry-cleaned.
  • Re-paint the area which has been affected with some antifungal paint, but don’t overlay it with ordinary paints or wallpaper or it won’t work.
  • Make sure that you take action to prevent condensation building up to stop it happening again.

Burst pipes

Freezing pipes cause flooding, ruined possessions, collapsed ceilings, and a whole lot of misery. But how do they happen?

Well, one of the first things we all get taught in science lessons at school is how water expands when it freezes.

Continual freezing and expansion in pipes means that pressure builds up, making the pipes degrade and burst.


  • Preventing burst pipes is infinitely preferable to returning to a wet, watery home. So, make sure that your pipes are snugly attired in lagging (available from DIY shops), and that your loft and either side of your water tank are insulated.
  • If it’s properly cold, then it’s likely you’ll have your heating on anyway. But if you’re going away for a day or two, then it might be a good idea to leave it on a very low heat or have it on a timer.
  • Make sure that you know where the stopcock is in your home so you know how to shut the supply of water off if there is a leak.
  • If your pipes have burst, get straight on the phone to your insurer – they might be able to cover the cost of alternative accommodation while your house is getting fixed.

Boiler breakdown

Picture the scene: you amble downstairs for a hot, deep bath on a lazy Sunday morning. You’re looking forward to some quality time with the Archers omnibus, your loofah and a bottle of Matey - and why not? You deserve it.

You turn the taps on, dreamily anticipating a good scrub with your cocoa butter soap… but what’s this? You’ve been running the tap for a few minutes and the water is still stone cold. The radiators aren’t warm, either. In fact, you thought it was quite nippy when you got out of bed.

This can only mean one thing: your boiler has packed in. A veritable nightmare during winter, boilers on the blink cause untold misery, not to mention huge expense.


  • Getting your boiler checked and serviced every year will give you a good steer on its general health.
  • It pays to learn a bit about your boiler – you don’t need to become a Corgi-registered engineer, but knowing what your boiler displays when it's working normally will help you recognise when it’s about to croak. For instance, most boilers should usually operate at about one bar of pressure, and be no higher than two.  
  • Make sure that your radiators are regularly bled.
  • Boiler insurance is an increasingly popular way of protecting yourself from the wallet-knackering expense of a boiler breakdown. It often includes an annual service and inspection as part of the package. However, be wary of the terms and conditions and pushy sales lines.
  • You won’t need boiler cover if you’re a tenant as it’s your landlord’s responsibility. If you’re a homeowner, your home insurance might actually offer a degree of boiler cover – double-check with your insurer.

(MORE: Ways to keep your boiler happy)

Kristian Dando

A freelance personal finance journalist.