There is a thick blanket of snow in the garden, and a few days later even the ornamental pond is frozen over. Winter can be beautiful, but it can also be destructive. At low temperatures, especially below freezing, you as a homeowner or tenant have a duty of care to avoid major damage to the building. The garden or the balcony plants need special care, so that they come undamaged over the winter.
In this article, you'll learn how to save your home and garden from frost damage. The most important things in a nutshell:
- To avoid frost damage, buildings must be heated sensibly in winter.
- The winter check around the house: check gutters and brickwork.
- You can protect your garden from low temperatures with a few measures.
Avoid frost damage: Heat sensibly
You must have learned at school that water expands when it gets cold. For example, the volume of ice is ten percent greater than that of liquid water. Pipes carrying water need special attention during the cold season. Because if the water expands, the pipes can burst. This danger exists for the tap water system, but also for heating pipes.
Heating valves do have the so-called frost monitor setting. However, this anti-freeze setting only protects the radiator in question from freezing, but not remotely located pipes. To prevent major damage to water pipes, you should heat all rooms so that the room temperature is above the freezing range. You should not only think about the permanently used living spaces. There are also water pipes in the garage, cellar and attic that can be exposed to major frost damage. Especially these rooms are dangerous, because they are usually not heated.
Heating obligation also applies to vacant properties
In the property in which you are at home, you certainly have the heating well under control. The situation can be different for houses or apartments that are not permanently occupied. Because they are used, for example, as a vacation home. Even there, as the owner, you have a duty to prevent pipes from freezing. If you can't go to your vacation home regularly, you have the possibility to ask an acquaintance living there to do the inspection. You might also opt for a smart home system that allows you to control the room temperature online with your cell phone, depending on the weather conditions. If, despite everything, damage occurs, you must contact your insurance company.
Homeowners insurance protects your home from the most important dangers. This includes tap water or fire. You can find out more about this here.
But be careful: Your insurance company can refuse to settle the claim if you have not fulfilled your duty of care. For a vacation property, it is usually sufficient to prove that the heating valves were on the antifreeze setting. Properties that are unoccupied for other reasons must also be heated. Even high energy prices unfortunately do not release you from your duties.
Before the frost comes: winter check around the house
Not only pipes can suffer from low temperatures in winter: You should check the gutters to avoid freezing water there. Outside water taps are often used for watering the garden and should be turned off. It makes sense to empty the water pipes outside. If you want to make less work for yourself, you should think about insulating your pipes. For new buildings, this is usually part of the scope of services, but old buildings can also be retrofitted. The house facade and the terrace also belong to the inspection before winter. Are there cracks or holes in which water can collect and then freeze? This also leads to damage.
When the stresses caused by water icing exceed the strength of the building material, frost damage occurs in the masonry of a house. There, a frequent change of frost and dew leads to visible cracks. Salts, fouling or dirt can further encourage this frost damage, as they increase the water content in the building material. In fact, changes in masonry caused by frost occur mainly in mild winters. Rain showers followed by periods of frost play a supporting role. Of course, the orientation of the masonry, external and internal sources of moisture and the possibility of solar radiation additionally influence the damage.
What helps? The so-called hydrophobing agents that are applied repel moisture from the building material and prevent damage from frost. If frost damage is already visible on the exterior walls, you should ask an expert. The knows about drainage and retrofitting the masonry, as well as the prevention of moisture damage.
In case of frost the garden needs your help
From spring to fall, everything has been greening and blooming, and after the cold winter, some plants have frozen to death? The garden needs your help so it doesn't catch your plants cold. They quickly perish from cell freezing: the water inside the plant freezes, destroying the cells in the process. This applies not only to young trees with young shoots, but also to plants that have been up to robust and have kept well.
You want to protect your garden all year round? Here you can find out which insurance is right for you.
Protect trees and evergreens from the cold weather
If the temperature drops and frost is imminent, you should take good care of your greenery. This also includes the trees. If the sun shines during the day and it gets freezing cold at night, frost cracks can form on the stems. Due to the heat, the bark often only expands on the side that is exposed to the sun, the other side remains cold. In the transition area bark cracks appear, which provide a home especially for fungi and bacteria. To insulate the trunk, you can wrap a special trunk protector around it, such as mats made of coconut fiber.
Evergreen woody plants can suffer from the warm-cold fluctuation. When the sun shines on the frozen leaves, the frost gives way and the moisture in the leaves evaporates. But the roots cannot supply the plant with new water because the ground is frozen. This causes the so-called frost-dryness, by which leaves and shoots of shrubs, but also of perennials die off. Directly at the trunk of sensitive plants you can put mulch discs of sheep's wool on the soil. They insulate the roots from the cold.
For smaller plants such as perennials and bedding plants, you can use straw, mulch, pine needles or leaves. With this you cover the soil and protect the plant from frozen ground. Do not remove your winter protection too early, late frost is to be expected from time to time.
Potted plants are particularly vulnerable
Potted plants are very sensitive and should be relocated to a sheltered place before the cold comes, if possible. A room with a temperature of no more than seven degrees is most suitable. If you don't have a place to safely store potted plants in winter, you can also put them under a fleece cover and place them against the wall of the house.
Another tip: In spring, check carefully with a little scratching of the bark whether the plant underneath is still green. If this is the case, the chances are good that it will soon sprout again and develop new shoots. If the plant has a few brown leaves, it is not necessarily dead. But keep in mind: the frost damage to a plant is often only visible later on.
Before winter arrives at your house, check on your masonry, decking, gutters, and water lines. As the owner, you have a duty to protect the house from frost damage by heating it appropriately. This also applies in times of high energy costs. The garden deserves greater attention after autumn and at the latest before the first frost, because it is part of your home. Many plants need protection from ice and cold.
Well protected all year round: With a homeowners insurance, you secure your home financially against the most important dangers.