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Maintenance issues give UK residents the Halloween creeps

31 Oct 2019

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UK House Maintenance Advice

Two thirds of UK residents say their home gives them the creeps, saying that issues such as strange sounds, cold spots, unusual smells and unpredictable electrics make them feel unsettled.

According to a nationally representative study of 2,000 UK adults conducted by property maintenance experts Aspect, 64% of UK residents complain of feeling ‘unsettled’ in their homes.

One in five say their home has ‘cold spots’. 14% say they are spooked by tapping, banging and dripping sounds, one in ten say unpredictable electrics put them on edge and that unusual smells are giving them the creeps, while some people even confessed that parts of their home had a “weird aura”.

The study also revealed that certain parts of the home presented varying issues for the inhabitants. Attics were the area most likely to be home to a weird ‘aura’, bathrooms were revealed as the most common site of unexplained smells and cold spots, bedrooms were most commonly associated with knocking and tapping sounds and kitchens most commonly associated with unpredictable electrics.

But things may not be as bad as they seem. Property maintenance expert Nick Bizley, director of operations at Aspect, believes that even the most unsettling problem normally has a relatively simple explanation.

Nick says “It’s certainly that time of year when our homes start to cause us problems. For example, electrics like lighting and electric heating are being used more and people are starting to use their central heating after several months of no use, so there’s more demand on the home’s appliances and systems.

“Plus, the nights are drawing in and the weather’s getting colder. This can highlight certain problems around the home, especially as households start using their heating more frequently. And when you add the unsettling tapping, knocking and creaking sounds, cold spots and strange smells, it’s no wonder a lot of people are complaining of ‘spooky’ phenomena making them unsettled.

“However, most of the things that can make a home feel like this can be explained quite rationally and fixed if necessary. Knocking and banging from pipes, especially after taps have been shut off, is most likely due to high water pressure. It could also be due to the build-up of magnetite (a dark sludge) in a central heating system.

“And there are a number of explanations for rooms, or specific parts of rooms, that always seem chilly. Radiators that need bleeding, draughts and poor insulation can all cause this to happen.

“Strange smells are a little harder to diagnose, because the potential causes are so varied. A constant ‘musty’ smell could be the result of damp conditions and the growth of mould caused by poor ventilation. This is more likely if it’s a room that gets less use and receives less natural light and fresh air from outside, such as a spare room or the loft. If the smell is more distinct, for example an unpleasant rotting or ammonia smell, it could be a sign of pests, such as mice. Blocked drains can cause a very strong and unpleasant smell too.”

Top autumn maintenance tips

Wire wool and silicon for keeping pests away

Pests such as mice and rats typically enter via holes and cracks in the brickwork or pipes. A clump of wire wool, bound with silicon is an effective barrier against vermin as it’s almost impossible to chew through. Use a screwdriver to stuff the holes.

Bleed radiators to tackle cold spots

If your radiator isn’t performing up to standard, it may require bleeding. To check, compare the temperatures at the top and bottom of the appliance. If the top is cooler than the bottom, it’s a sign that the radiator needs bleeding. Simply place a bowl under the valve to catch drips, turn off the heating, then release the radiator valve using the radiator key.

Troubleshoot the cause of knocking or tapping pipes

Although you’re probably more likely to hear the knocking and tapping sounds in the bedroom as these tend to be the quietest parts of the home occupied at the quietest times of day, the knocking and tapping sounds are most likely occurring all over the home.

The most common cause is water pressure related. If the pressure is too high, the water can surge through the pipes when demanded by the central heating system or taps. This surge causes the pipes to rattle or knock against their fixing, which sends an ungodly echo around the entire building. If the sounds occur directly after the water is shut off at the tap, it’s most likely a pressure issue. Call in a plumber to take a look.

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