Resolve to know your home this year

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After a long, long 2021, it’s finally 2022, and a new year means a new start.

For a lot of people, that might just be the excuse they need to finally fire the starting gun on their dream project - the long-awaited loft conversion or extreme extension they’ve always wanted.

And while we absolutely approve of taking on those kinds of jobs - and we have amazing tradespeople to get them done - they’re not realistic for everyone.

But it’s like any new year’s resolution - make it too big, and there’s a chance you end up disappointed. Aim for something more manageable though, and you can pat yourself on the back at the end of the year, rather than feeling disappointed come February.

This year, we say why not make a resolution of getting to know your home, and keeping it in perfect working order. It might not be big. It might not be flashy. But it’s absolutely achievable - and the results will speak for themselves.

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Find your stopcock

Here’s something you can do in a couple of minutes after you finish reading this - go and find your stopcock (or if you know where it is, go check you can turn it).

Your home most likely has two stopcocks that turn off water coming into your property, an external one and an internal one.

The external one is usually just outside your home under a metal cover marked with “Water”, “Stopcock” or “W”, and needs a metal T-shaped bar to turn the valve.

More useful is the internal one, which could be in a variety of places - under the kitchen sink, in a bathroom, under the stairs, or sometimes even boxed in under the floorboards. Ask previous residents, check your property survey, or ask neighbours (if their home is similar) if you’re stumped.

When you’ve found it, give it an anti-clockwise turn to make sure it’s in working order - and if not, get a plumber to check it out.

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Know how to isolate your gas

If you’re worried about gas in your home - for example, you can smell gas or hear a leak - then it’s vital you know how to turn off your gas supply.

Usually the isolation valve is next to your gas meter, in the same box or close by. You should make sure you have the meter box key for quick access when you need it.

When you find it, you can turn the handle so it’s at 90 degrees to the gas pipe, cutting off the flow. Open windows and doors, don’t use electrical devices (or start any fires) and call the 24 Hour National Gas Emergency number on 0800 111 999 who dispatch an engineer.

For follow-up work you’ll need a Gas Safe registered engineer to carry out any fixes.

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Turn off your electricity

Modern consumer units - also called fuse boxes - can control electricity coming into your home from the mains.

They’re fitted with RCDs (Residual Current Devices) and circuit breakers which trip or switch in case of a fault, cutting electricity to the affected circuit.

Old fuse boxes still use actual fuses, which contain wires which melt when overheating - and these should be replaced to come into line with modern safety standards.

Modern units also have a switch which can control the power coming into your home - it’s vital you know where yours is, so electricians can work safely.

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Understand your boiler

Boilers can be complex beasts, especially older models, but getting to grips with them is very useful, both for making sure they’re working correctly and for getting the most efficient use out of them.

It’s good to familiarise yourself with your boiler so you can spot any issues before they become real problems - any odd noises or misbehaving (like cutting out when it’s not meant to) could be a sign of a major fault that needs addressing - so find a heating engineer who can inspect yours, and help you understand what’s going on.

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Tackle your trees

Despite their size, it’s easy to overlook the things growing in your front or back garden, but left to their own devices, trees can cause a whole range of problems for your home.

Mature trees can block light, weak branches can fall in storms causing damage to roofs and gutters, while in hot weather trees can suck up all the moisture from the ground, potentially causing subsidence issues.

If you’ve never paid any attention to the trees on your property, make an appointment to speak to a tree surgeon and make sure yours are healthy and well-managed, before they cause any issues.

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