Practical tips on keeping your home in France secure and in good condition when cold weather arrives. These tips will help you get your French property ready for winter.
What’s winter like in France?
There are many reasons to love winters in France. The crisp blue skies on a clear day, the hearty soups and delicious French meals such as pot–au-feu or raclette with family or friends… Or maybe an afternoon spent drinking a warming cup of hot chocolate by the fireside.
Winters in France however can be very cold. It’s a large country with significant variances in temperature. For example the average January temperature is 0°C in Strasbourg and 7°C in Nice. Temperatures can commonly fall to as low as -18°C, with the coldest period lasting from late January to early March. Mouthe in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region is officially the coldest place in France – recording a chilling Arctic rate of -41°C in 1985.
Making sure your French home is winter ready
Although in recent years winters have been relatively mild, due to increasing extremes in weather conditions, it makes sense to prepare for the worst.
Whether you have a second home in France or live here all-year round, there are several things that you can do before and during the winter to protect your property.
Many second homeowners take their last holidays of the year in France during late summer or the school half-term break in October. This is the perfect time to carry out a few key actions to make sure you weather the winter. There are also companies specialising in French property management – and often a friendly neighbour will be happy to help too!
Checklist to get your French property ready for winter
Ensure that your property is secure
Check that all windows, doors, shutters and locks are secured firmly and are in good condition.
Protect your property from water damage
Burst or frozen pipes are a common cause of problems during the winter due to freezing temperatures and unprotected pipework. A burst pipe can result in significant and costly damage and the amount of water escaping from a pipe can be as much as 400 litres an hour.
To reduce the risk, insulate outside pipes and taps with insulated foam or lagging and make sure that no bends, joints or taps are exposed. Don’t forget pipes buried in the ground or pipework in your property’s basement, loft and garage also need to be protected.
Drain your central heating system
Draining your central heating system is important if you leave the property empty for more than 3 days between November and April.
Set your thermostat to frost position
It is a good idea to set any thermostats on electric radiators to a ‘frost’ position (usually marked as a snowflake ❄). This means that the radiators will switch on during the coldest of nights providing some ambient heat and reducing the risk of damage from frozen pipes.
Turn off the stop cock
Your stop cock is the control tap for your mains water. If you’re leaving your property closed during the winter, close the mains water supply, running any water out of the taps before you do so.
Look after your loo
Bathrooms attract more moisture so are more prone to water damage. Switch off the water to the toilet at the supply stop and flush the toilet to drain all of the water.
Turn off any electrical appliances
Turn off all appliances such as fridges, fridge-freezers, televisions, audio-visual equipment etc.. Remember to leave the doors of fridges and fridge-freezers open to stop mould.
Check your roof guttering
There are practical things you can do outside the home too such as inspecting the roof of your house. A build-up of leaves and mud during the autumn can result in blockages, leading to leaky gutters and a risk of water damage so keep your gutters clear.
In the garden
If you have a water butt, in very cold weather the water can freeze so it might be a good idea to drain it over winter.