Be prepared for high winds & strong gales

Gales are the most common cause of damage and disruption in the UK. Once a major wind storm hits, it may be too late to protect your home and property.

There are several things that can be done beforehand to protect your property and limit potential wind damage.

Make sure your roof can handle high winds

The roof is one of the most vulnerable parts of your home. During high winds, winds speeds vary and winds may change direction. This puts enormous pressure on all parts of a building, especially the roof. The roof must be secure to avoid damage to your home and surrounding areas.

One of the easiest things you can do to check the status of your roof, especially if you're not comfortable getting on a ladder to look at your roof, is to peek into the attic. What's happening inside can tell you a lot about what's happening on the outside.

Most of the below can be spotted without even entering into the attic, if you don't want to risk damaging insulation.

  • Places where the roof is sagging
  • Rusted nails or stains around nails
  • Signs of water damage or leaking
  • Dark spots and trails
  • Black mould
  • Outside light showing through the roof

If you spot any of the above, have your roof checked over by a roofing specialist. One small issue can often be a symptom of a much larger problem.

Make sure your roof is in good condition on the outside

When inspecting your roof from the outside, stay off the roof unless you know what you are doing. Either view it from the ground with binoculars or walk around your home's exterior, inspecting for signs of damage, sagging, and aging. Take notes of any possible problem areas, or areas in need of closer inspection.

If you're confident enough to make a closer inspection, carefully use a ladder to give your roof the once over. You should never try to walk across your roof.

Safety first

Do not use ladders during adverse weather conditions.

When weather is suitable, the safest ladder to use is a heavy duty triple extension ladder. Place the bottom quarter of it's total height away from the base of the house. Make sure its on firm, flat ground and not tilting left or right, and at least 3 rungs should be overlapping for stability.

Always have someone holding the ladder at the bottom.

Roofing Key

Roofing tiles, sometimes referred to as roof shingles, are flat or curved tiles that interlock and overlap in a way that channels water off pitched roof, and into a guttering system.

Sarking felt underlay is a layer of felt which is moisture resistant and is laid under the roof tiles, acting as a secondary means of defence should moisture and draughts seep under the roof tiles.

Sarking board, sometimes referred to as roof sheafing, is an extra a covering of timber boards over the rafters. Roof tiles or slates are nailed directly to sarking boards to provide a strong, wind-resistant roof.

In England and Wales it has become common practice to leave out the timber sarking boards and rely only a sarking felt. However in Scotland, where wind speed can reach 100mph, it is common practice to use sarking boards

Inspect the exterior of your roof for the following:

  • Missing tiles or slates. Roofing tiles are a good option for reducing the risk of wind damage, but if they are not properly installed then loose tiles can cause damage not only to your roof but the area surrounding it. If you know that high winds are forecast, ensure all tiles are securely fixed, and that there are no missing tiles. Missing roof tiles means your roof is directly exposed to adverse weather conditions
  • Defective or missing flashing (this is the lead or zinc sheet used to prevent the passage of water where the roof joins any parapet walls or chimney stack).
  • A leaning chimney stack or parapet wall
  • Sarking boards or sarking felt is secure. If tiles or slates have failed, sarking is the second line of defence. This must be secure and free of holes to provide weatherproof protection.

If you are in any doubt about the condition of your roof, have it checked over by a roofing specialist.

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Check guttering is safe & secure

Regular checks of your roof and guttering will put you in the best position possible to keep you safely protected from the worst of weathers. The small amount of time taken to properly maintain your guttering will benefit you in the long term, so use dry days as an excuse to get outside and check that your guttering is properly prepared for the worst of weathers.

The correct type of drainage allows the flow of water to be directed away from your home without building up onto your roof. If water penetrates your home, woodwork can perish, mould will begin to grow, condensation forms and brickwork can erode. Damp patches quickly spread and health problems can become an issue.

Because of its positioning, the weather will inevitably cause wear and tear in your guttering. If you're expecting strong winds, you'll need to stabilise guttering to avoid permanent damage to your roof. Ensure all guttering is securely fastened to your roof to avoid it loosening, and coming away from the house. Hips, ridges and flashings can become detached in windy weather if pointing is not maintained. Look in gutters or gullies for signs of mortar droppings.

Whilst checking that it is secure and safely fastened to your roof, you should also check for the following:

  • Sagging gutters and loose brackets
  • Blocked gutters
  • A leaking joint in a gutter/downpipe
  • Plants or weeds growing out of the roof or guttering

If your guttering is blocked, we can help you sort it before the worst of the weather starts.

watch how to clear out guttering

Remember, if you can't easily or safely reach your gutters, or you are unsure of what you are doing, call in the professionals.

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Top tip

In windy weather, over hanging trees can drop leaves into your guttering. Consider cutting back any branches that hang directly over guttering to avoid blockages.

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It's actually easiest to check if there are any points that the gutters are failing when it's raining. Then the next time it's sunny you can get up there and sort them out.

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If you already know that new guttering needs to be installed, we can help with our handy guide to installing guttering.

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Don't forget

Park vehicles in a garage, if available. If possible keep vehicles clear of buildings, trees, walls and fences.

Has the garage door been properly secured?

If the garage door fails, winds can enter your home and blow out doors, windows, walls, and the roof. Consider adding extra protection to your garage door with Stormguard rubber garage seal, and the Master Lock Garage defender lock.

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Don't let the outside in

Draughts are a bit like ventilation - both let fresh air into your home. Good ventilation helps reduce condensation and damp. But draughts are uncontrolled: they let in too much cold air and waste too much heat.

Walls, doors, and windows are the protective shell of your home. Draught proofing your home will protect you from extreme weather and reduce heating costs.

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Find the gaps

Take a close look at places where two different building materials meet, such as corners, around chimneys, where pipes or wires exit and along the foundation.

Use the smoke test: carefully move a lit match along walls; where the smoke wavers, you have cool air sneaking in and heating sneaking out.

Windows

Windows should be your first step when you wind proof the inside of your home.

Windows are notorious for letting in cold air. Weatherproof windows by sealing them, both inside and out, to cut down on heating and cooling costs.

The easiest and simplest way to draught proof your windows is with foam weather stripping insulating tape. This product can be fitted to doors, windows and loft hatches, to prevent draughts. Foam weather stripping comes in a roll which is made out of a flat foamy sponge material. On one side of the foam is a removable strip like a roll of tape, and underneath that strip is a strong adhesive used to apply the stripping.

The size and flexibility of weather stripping tape makes it well suited for blocking irregular-sized cracks.

When sealing windows, apply foam weather stripping between the sash and the frame. The foam strip shouldn't interfere with the operation of the window.

Make sure the strip is the right size to fill the gap in your window. If the strip is too big it will get crushed and you may not be able to close the window. If it's too small there will still be a gap.

Also available for windows are secondary glazing sets. If you've not got double glazing, it's a good idea to invest in a kit for windows that you feel are letting in a draught.

Made of a clear, plastic material that goes over the window, with double-sided tape around the edges to seal it, it goes a long way to blocking out draughts and is practically invisible.

The Stormguard secondary glazing film to create a double glazing effect to keep heat in, saving you energy and money.

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Doors

If your draught problem is from a poor fitting door, again the simplest and cheapest method to fix this would be to purchase some self-adhesive foam weather stripping.

This rolled product can be easily installed around the outside edge of the door frame. Select the smallest size that will help seal the gaps, then just peel and stick. Too large and you may have difficulty closing the door.

When installing foam weather stripping to doors:

  • Choose the appropriate door sweeps and thresholds for the bottom of the doors
  • Weather strip the entire door jamb
  • Apply one continuous strip along each side
  • Make sure the weather stripping meets tightly at the corners
  • Use a thickness that causes the weather strip to press tightly between the door and the door jamb when the door closes without making it difficult to shut

Also available for doors are brush seals.

Sealing against smoke, odours, draughts, dust, insects and light, brush seals are attached to the bottom of doors that experience particularly heavy usage, such as front doors.

Brush strip sealing is perfect for solving draught problems, and particularly good for retaining heat in the home and lowering heating bills.

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Don't forget...

Letter boxes

Letter boxes tend to let in draughts which leads to chilly hallways and higher heating bills. Fitting a draught excluder on the inside of the letter box will help keep out the chill and strengthen the door as a whole.

Letterbox draught excluders fit to the back of the letterbox plate on the inside of doors. It's an easy DIY job, even for a beginner, that will save you money in the long run.

Key holes

Often forgotten about, the key hole can let in a constant, small stream of air. If your house is wind-facing, it's worth buying a key hole cover that drops a metal disc over the keyhole effectively closing the gap.

Wall switches and sockets

There's a final place in your home we need to mention when it comes to draught excluding - electric wall fittings, such as sockets and switches.

Although they aren't in the same category as doors and windows, the holes in our walls for electrical sockets and switches do allow cold air into a house in the wintertime.

Weather strip foam can be used around the edges of these.

It's also a good idea to purchase socket guards to block plug sockets that aren't in use, which will go some way to reducing leaks.

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If you know that a storm, or particularly strong gales, are expected you should take the time to secure your garden.

Protect your belongings

Bring smaller items like potted plants inside and take down hanging planters that could crash into windows.

Garden tools and equipment can be seriously damaged by windy weather, and become incredibly dangerous if picked up by the wind. To keep your garden equipment safe, secure and looking its very best for longer, store it in dry conditions and ensure that everything is fully dry before putting away.

Invest in a good quality shed to protect larger items, and items that can't be brought inside the house for safe keeping.

If you already have a shed, make sure that it is in good condition to withstand adverse weather conditions. In particular, check that your roofing felt is secure. Replacing split and worn roofing felt shed is an important task you need to do if you want your garden equipment, tools and furniture to stay in tip top condition.

If you've not got roofing felt on your shed, it's easy to install, flexible, strong and durable. Felting your shed roof will go a long way to weatherproofing and protecting valuable tools in extreme weather conditions.

We can help you get started with our video guide to felting a shed roof.

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Top tip

Damage to shed doors is common in high winds. Keep them closed and securely locked. This will not only prevent the wind blowing them off the hinges, but it will deter burglars in winter months.

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Secure your garden

Secure any outdoor objects and equipment that could be lifted by the wind.

Make sure larger items are properly restrained to avoid becoming flying debris that could damage your home or someone else's.

Anchor and secure larger items such as tables, chairs, large umbrellas, trampolines and play structures. There are many ways to safely secure these objects including weights, ropes, chains, and stakes. Sheds should be firmly fixed to a strong base.

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Top tip

If you haven't already stored your barbecue away for winter and haven't got a shed to store it in, it's worth investing in a quality barbecue cover to protect it from the elements.

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Fencing

Fences provide practical privacy and shelter against the blustery weather, but can also bear the brunt of much of the bad weather, be it rain or high winds.

Make sure all your boundary fences are secure and posts are firmly set in the ground.

Wooden fences are prone to rot or attack by insects, making them weak. To prolong their life, treat them regularly with wood stain and preservative.

The part of a wooden fence post most likely to rot is the section buried underground. If not reinforced in time, it will eventually collapse and pull down the entire fence, especially in high winds.

Find out how to repair rotten fence posts with our how-to guide

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Top tip

If you live in an area prone to high winds, it's worth rethinking your fence. Wooden fences create a block for the wind that eventually forces the fence to the ground. For strong wind resistance, you need to build a fence with gaps in it to let the wind blow through it. This reduces the force the wind has on the fence and reduces the chances that it will fall.

Trimming & maintaining large trees

Falling trees and blowing debris in storms often cause fatalities and severe structural damage. It is your responsibility to maintain trees in your garden, removing weak branches and trimming trees that could fall on your home and cause damage during a storm.

Prune, rather than top large trees

Many people have a tree topped or removed because they are afraid it is too big and will fall over.

Trees do sometimes fall over or drop limbs, but never because they are too big.

Removing whole tops of trees or large branches creates unsightly and sometimes hazardous rotten trees. It stimulates rapid growth of small, weak limbs which are more likely to drop, damaging your home and the surrounding areas. If you want to keep your tree small and safe, topping is not the way to go.

Good pruning will reduce the bulk of a tree, letting in more light and allowing wind to pass through. Reducing wind resistance by "taking out the sail" will make your tree safer.

If you're worried about the size of your tree it's a good idea to contact a local tree surgeon.

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Top tip

The ideal time to prune is during the first ten year after planting. This will help you 'train' the tree, promoting proper growth and form.

Spot the signs

Signs of potentially hazardous trees include mushrooms or white sheeting on the trunks; cracks; earlier topping cuts; excessive dead wood; heavy cone set; large hollows; and cut or disturbed root systems.

Protect your plants

High winds can cause serious damage to plants. Windy weather dries out leaves leading to browning, scorching, loss of buds, flowers and leaves, and in severe cases plants can be uprooted.

Thankfully, preventing wind damage is easy.

  • Windbreaks can be erected using netting, or mesh. These filter the wind, reducing its strength.
  • Use canes to support plants. Be sure not to tie them too tightly to plants, as this will cause breakage. The plants need to have some movement.
  • Keep plants, especially potted ones well watered during periods of high winds. Look at re-locating any potted plants out of harms way. Place plants in pots against a sheltered house wall, but be careful to avoid a position where buildings create a wind tunnel.
  • Insulate containers by wrapping them with bubble wrap.
  • Physical rubbing of stems and branches damages the plant making an ideal entry point for plant pests and diseases. Always keep a close eye on your plants to make sure that there are no crossing branches that could rub against each other and cause damage. Remove any crossing branches immediately. Any branches that have been damaged should be cleaned up with a sharp knife.
  • Hedges and trees can also be used to protect shrubs from wind scorch. Plant shrubs in the lee of a garden hedge.
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Invest in a growhouses or coldframes

If you're really worried about extreme weather damaging your garden, it's worth investing in some sturdy plant protection.

Growhouses are highly economical alternatives to traditional greenhouses and are ideal for plant propagation and protection, or for hardening off plants heading from the warm greenhouse to the garden.

Coldframes will bring warmth and shelter to your garden and help your seeds to become strong, healthy vegetables, shrubs or bedding plants.

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Top tip

If plant damage does occur, in most cases the plant will grow out of it, although in extreme situations you may want to prune out the damage. Pay particular attention to watering and feeding after a damaging weather event.