April 23 2014 Latest news:

Homeowners and business owners should watch out for more than just frozen pipes at this time of year – snow and run off from melting ice can cause serious damage, as can high winds.

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"Check roofs are in a state of good repair now before the more extreme weather hits."

Alistair Smith, Aviva

Unexpected types of damage can be caused by the weight of snow sitting on a roof or tree branches snapping off in gales and damaging property.

Martyn Foulds, senior claims manager for Halifax Home Insurance, said: “Winter is the time when we retreat to the warmth and safety of our homes, but before doing so there are some essential checks that need to be carried out.

“Prevention is certainly better than the cure, and much of the damage can be avoided if householders spent a small amount of time preparing for the bad weather.”

Advice includes checking the condition of the roof; looking for cracked or broken tiles, cracks in the chimney or problems with the pointing; clearing gutters and drain pipes of any leaves or debris that have built up in them to reduce the risk of blocks and overflows; and cutting back low hanging branches that could cause damage in high winds.

And Alistair Smith, property risk manager at Aviva, said: “Last winter saw the coldest and most severe snow conditions in three decades, with no time for the repeated snow falls to melt.

“This meant a build up of layers created immense pressure on roofs and in some cases caused considerable damage to property and interruption to the day-to-day running of businesses.

“Check roofs are in a state of good repair now before the more extreme weather hits.

“Then keep an eye on the weather forecasts and look out for visible signs that the roof may be under stress. A deflection of the roof or cracking, splitting or twisting in the joists, beams and girders could indicate a problem.”

Mr Smith also said that roof collapses occurred when the snow load exceeds the design load for the roof.

Large roofs could be a problem he said, as they may be less well structurally supported. But problems could also occur where the roof lines are staggered, resulting in snow building up, sliding or drifting onto lower levels.

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