Cold weather can have a detrimental effect on both your home and garden – so what’s the best way to solve the problem?
As winter settles in and nights get colder, you need to keep an eye out for how frosty weather can affect your home. Even without prior warning, a sudden plunge in temperature overnight can cause the concrete, plaster and brickwork in your home to crack and spall (that is, splinter or begin to crumble from within). This is due to the expansion effect – as water freezes into ice it enlarges, thus damaging any outer body in which it was originally contained in liquid form.
So how do you repair frost damage after a cold winter’s evening? Here’s a quick look over the different areas of the home frost affects most, and what you can do about it once the damage has been done.
Tending to frost-bitten Plants
Plant and flowers are usually damaged by frost when new growths are unable to acclimatise quickly enough to the rapid changes or falls in temperature. If you go outside first thing in the morning after a frosty night, you’ll notice that a lot of plants’ leaves have been turned an ugly black or brown colour by the cold weather – and they won’t start to blossom again until they’ve been properly pruned.
You’re always best waiting for a spell of dry or sunny weather to deal with frost-bitten plants and shrubs; after all, there’s no point tending to what’s left only for it to freeze over once more the following night. As the weather does start to improve, you should remove any discoloured leaves throughout the garden and prune and cut as many plants as possible to generate new growth during the warmer springtime.
Repairing frost damaged Walls, Concrete and Brickwork
Damaged walls, drives or pathways are a bit different to browned plants and leaves – and because they post a potential danger hazard (not to mention possibly resulting in major heat loss throughout your home), you should get these fixed as soon as possible.
To deal with cracks and holes in frost damaged brickwork, you need to refill the vacated area with a non-porous mixture of cement and aggregate (usually one part cement, five parts aggregate) and compact it within a small space to drive out any stubborn air pockets that might stretch through an entire wall. If you need to replace entire bricks and/or slabs for pathways, you should be on the lookout for F2 (frost resistant) and F1 (moderately frost resistant) registered building materials.
If you’re unsure of how to go about repairing brickwork and mixing cement by yourself, or you’re uncomfortable with the idea of altering or tampering with the structure of your property, you should get in touch with a trained and qualified building contractor to do the work for you instead.
Fixing frost damaged Piping
Frozen pipe work – whether indoors or outdoors – can also have a serious effect on your day-to-day living, shutting off your hot water supply and potentially causing a rupture or leak because of the rapid cooling and expansion that occurs during a frosty spell. As with paving and brickwork, it’s something that should be addressed right away.
If you are suffering a leak, the first thing you should do is turn off the water supply at the mains – this will prevent the problem from getting any worse. Then, unless you have spare parts at the ready and are comfortable replacing the damaged section of piping yourself, you need to get in touch with an experienced and qualified plumber, who will be able to locate the source of the leak and fix it up with a brand new portion of piping that will hopefully last a lot longer.
If you want to prevent further damage to pipe work, you can always pick up handy foam piping covers or special insulating electric trace-heating cables from a host of different home-ware and/or DIY stores across the country. These electric cables are relatively new inventions for domestic properties, and are designed to offer a self-regulating anti-frost service; they draw electric current from your home as the pipes begin to approach zero degrees, thus allowing them to stay warm in the event of frosty weather.
If you want to get these installed and hooked up directly to the electric mains in your home, you will need to hire a professional electrician to see if your piping and property are compatible for such an upgrade. It might be a bit more costly than a few foam covers, but it will provide added protection to your property no matter what the weather – helping to prevent frost damage at a later date!