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Planning Retirement Online

50plus handyman   October 2005

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The handyman column
By Roger Runswick

Pre-winter maintenance

Preventative maintenance is something that a householder should always undertake, particularly before the winter sets in. But what should be maintained? 



Water is a key component in many insurance claims, yet many householders don’t know where to shut off the supply.

  • Get to know where the stopcocks for the premises are. There should be at least one internal stopcock in the house as well as an external one in the road or garden. If you have a water meter, it’s usually next to it. Check that the stopcocks can be accessed and remain operational. Stopcocks should not be screwed hard open but ‘backed off’ a little to prevent jamming. A touch of a spray lubricant from time to time helps keep them free.

  • Similarly keep gate valves operational. These are inside the house, often in cupboards and are typically coloured red. They are used to isolate feeds to hot and cold taps in many older properties. If you need to change a tap washer and don’t have isolating valves fitted to each tap, then gate valves will need to be closed.

  • Ensure taps are not left to drip, particularly in hard water areas. Get dripping taps repaired sooner rather than later; a washer is cheaper than a new tap.

  • Check ball valves in tanks and loos. These should not allow water to fill to the overflow level, when water starts to drip or run out of an external overflow pipe.

  • Ensure any tanks (usually in the roof) are covered and insulated and that the tank cover is well secured.


Maintenance is critical for safe and efficient operation of heating systems. Most householders know that boilers should be regularly maintained but many neglect other components of the system.

  • Check radiator valves annually. Use the valves occasionally to keep them operational.

  • If your heating system is water-based, check whether an inhibitor has been added. This helps prevent the build-up of scale and sludge which impairs efficiency.


Electrical installations are often taken for granted, but they do deteriorate over time.

  • The overall installation should be periodically inspected a minimum of once every 10 years. If you have a safety devise called an RCD in your consumer unit, check it for satisfactory operation annually.

  • Test the operation of smoke (and heat/carbon monoxide) detectors at least every 6 months.

  • Exterior lighting should be checked for satisfactory operation before the dark nights set in.


A poorly maintained exterior to the premises can often lead to internal problems such as damp.

  • Keep gutters, hoppers and down-pipes clear of debris. Remember to check any ‘internal’ gutters between pitched roof valleys on larger premises.

  • Have flat roofs inspected regularly.

  • Check that any waterproofing such as leading is not loose.

  • Look after the external d?or, maintaining paint on parts such as windowsills which can be prone to rot and fences which if neglected will blow down in a winter gale.

Roger Runswick is a director of 50plus Handyman and a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers. He can be contacted at .


Previous articles in this series:


Can I still change my light switch?

Fitting an outside light

Pre-winter maintenance



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