Home maintenance myths – 4 things you SHOULDN’T do this winter

They could cause some serious damage!

Like us, you've probably got a lot on your mind at the moment. Have you got presents for everyone (and have the kids got an equal amount...)? Have you ordered a big enough turkey? How are you going to turn the spare room from dumping ground into guest space? So home maintenance is probably taking a back seat.

Related: How to keep your house warm in winter – insulate against the cold and block those drafts

However, with some very cold weather on the way, it's worth fitting it in. Or at the very least, NOT doing anything that could damage your home. That's why the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme is busting some common home maintenance myths, so we can all make sure our homes are winter ready in the right way.

Myth 1 – You should turn your heating off when you're not at home

bathroom with white window and bathtub

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

You're saving money, right? Erm, yes, but turning your heating off has the potential to do more harm than good. It's a better idea to leave your heating on at a low temperature of around 14 degrees C.

'Without your heating warming up the pipes, the cold weather could cause them to freeze and burst,' says Julie Spinks, managing director of WRAS. 'If you have a newer high-efficiency or combi boiler, don’t forget the condensate pipes as well –  if these freeze the boiler will stop working. Ask your plumber or heating engineer about appropriate insulation.'

Myth 2 – It's OK to leave a dripping tap

kitchen with sink and white window

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jonathan Jones)

Sure, the noise is a bit annoying, but with so many other things to deal with at this time of year, it's OK to leave the leaky tap until January. WRONG! You really ought to fix that drip as soon as possible.

Not only could it save 5,500 litres of water and around £18 a year if you are on a meter, it could also cause bigger issues. 'Dripping taps can also lead to frozen drains or pipes, as the slow trickling of water means it's far more likely to freeze,' warns Julie.

Myth 3 – You can thaw frozen pipes by holding a match, lighter, blowtorch or candle to them

wooden table with rose flower and books

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

When it's below zero and there's no water coming out of your taps, it's tempting to wave a naked flame over the pipes to thaw them. But it's also a bad idea as the flame can damage the pipe. Instead, try a hairdryer on a low setting, or a hot water bottle.

Nor is it a good idea to wait and hope the pipes will thaw out when the weather improves. 'They also won’t necessarily thaw with a rise in temperature,' says Julie. 'Instead, the frozen water will expand, so leaving the situation unfixed could cause flooding.'

'If a water pipe bursts, turn off the water at the stopcock and leave taps open until it is thawed, or repairs are completed by an approved plumber.'

Myth 4 – You can DIY most plumbing jobs

We know money is short at Christmas time. So when things go wrong at this time of year, we can understand the temptation to try and fix the issue yourself. But bodge the job and it becomes a false economy, so it's usually best to bite the bullet and call a plumber straightaway.

Avoid cowboys by checking out the list of fully qualified plumbers near you at www.watersafe.org.uk.

Follow our advice and you can avoid any nightmares before Christmas. Happy holidays!

Amy Cutmore

Amy Cutmore is an experienced interiors editor and writer, who has worked on titles including Ideal Home, Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, GardeningEtc, Top Ten Reviews and Country Life. And she's a winner of the PPA's Digital Content Leader of the Year. A homes journalist for two decades, she has a strong background in technology and appliances, and has a small portfolio of rental properties, so can offer advice to renters and rentees, alike.