Winter home blues

"Year after year," says Lanice Steward, Managing Director of Anne Porter Knight Frank, "many Capetonians find that winter has caught them unawares. We seem to be somehow reluctant to prepare for it."

Every year around this time Anne Porter Knight Frank, the Cape estate agency, finds that among its clients, especially those who have moved into newly purchased homes, winter can come as a shock: leaks, droughts, rising damp and other cold weather problems suddenly become apparent and troublesome.

Throughout April and May, said Steward, all homeowners should be checking their windows for decaying putty or other sealants, inspecting their roofs for loose tiles (especially if workmen have been on the roof in recent months), cleaning out gutters (if necessary with a high pressure hose) so as to dislodge hard mud deposits and ensure that rainwater is channeled into the downpipes and does not get dammed up and run onto the fascia boards – where after a few weeks of rain it can cause serious damage to the woodwork. In fact, added Steward, all woodwork on which the paint is flaking should be sanded down and repainted prior to the wet winter periods.

The areas in which roof leaks most often occur, said Steward, are those sections of the roof which abut the chimney, skylights or parapets. The silicon sealants, many of which are marketed under big name brands, have a regrettable tendency to harden and become brittle as time goes go and they need to be replaced fairly regularly. Similarly, any section of the roof which has malthoid, pvc or other patented coverings is likely to need a retreatment every three to five years.
If homeowners do not do pre-winter checks, said Steward, they are likely to find that the damages caused by water penetration are very expensive. Ceilings once thoroughly soaked often cannot be restored and walls which have persistent rising damp can also be difficult to reinstate.

Balconies, she warned, can also prove a serious problem. If water run-off is blocked it can flood adjacent rooms or leak into the rooms below and cause serious damage. In addition, poorly graded patios and easily become small lakes, with water penetrating the joints in sliding or conventional doors.

Also particularly vulnerable, said Steward, are those outbuildings such as store houses, garages and swimming pool kiosks in which people do not actually live and where leaks, therefore, can go undetected for a long time.

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