Christmas is a time for family, fun and relaxation, but before you get stuck into the festivities, it’s worth taking some time to ensure you and your home avoid some of the pitfalls of the holiday season.
We’ve trawled home insurance claims made by Ageas customers to find some of the most common causes of home damage at Christmas.
With elf and safety taken care of, you can concentrate on the important things, like having a merry Christmas!
1. Smashing trees
It’s perhaps not surprising that bringing a large tree into your front room can cause problems - in fact, Christmas trees are probably the greatest cause of festive damage. Typically, eager festive decorators fall off ladders and smash things, usually televisions.
Some people rearrange their furniture to decorate their house, and this can lead to other expensive breakages.
Perhaps less expected are the unfortunate incidences of people snagging jewellery in the branches, breaking precious rings and bracelets.
Tip: If using a ladder to decorate your tree, first check it’s in good condition and at a safe angle - 75 degrees or one unit out for every four units up. And avoid putting anything too heavy on top of your tree.
2. A foot through the ceiling
How many times a year do you head up to your loft? It’s possible you might only go up there to get the Christmas decorations down. In the hunt for the tinsel and baubles, make sure you don’t put your foot through the ceiling below. It happens to many people every festive season, with expensive consequences.
Tip: Take advantage of that annual trip up to the loft to give it a check over, looking out for mould, leaks, pests or gaps in your insulation.
3. Decoration danger
You managed to get the tree up and decorations out without any incidents. Phew!
It’s not over yet though. Common claims include burnt carpets after people have laid out their Christmas lights on the floor to test them. In other instances, decorations have fallen off trees and damaged valuable possessions, such as laptops.
Tip: After a year up in the loft, Christmas lights can become unsafe. If you have very old ones, consider buying new ones which will meet much higher safety standards.
4. Giddy kids
As any parent will know, there’s no end to the damage kids can cause around the home, especially at Christmas, when excitement levels reach fever-pitch.
Damaged televisions and laptops are common. In one festive incident, a child knocked a grandfather clock down, which fell on the Christmas tree, and then the TV.
New toys can also cause chaos. One child, a toddler, tested out his plastic tool kit on the TV, smashing the screen. Another found some black tape which was being used to secure Christmas lights in place and used it to create a road for his toy cars on the leather sofa. On removing the tape, the leather came away too.
Tip: Keep clutter to a minimum, clearing away wrapping paper and presents as you go.
5. Mischievous pets
A tall, bushy tree, loaded with dangly ornaments: it’s the perfect playground for any playful young cat. You may find your kitty climbs the tree and paws at the decorations. In some cases, they’ll pull it down, damaging whatever’s nearby.
It’s not just cats that cause chaos - dogs have been known to knock over trees or pull down Christmas decorations, again with occasional disastrous results for your possessions.
Tip: If you have a cat, try wrapping a thick layer of tinfoil around the base of the tree and up to the first branches, suggests Pets4Homes, which says it will deter them from climbing.
6. Flaming puds
In many households Christmas lunch is a well-choreographed affair, involving multiple dishes and carefully planned oven timings, but it can all go wrong at the last minute. Flaming Christmas puddings do, predictably, sometimes lead to scorched furniture and burnt carpets - especially when carried from one room to another.
Tip: To achieve a bigger flame on your Christmas pudding, first gently warm the brandy in a saucepan and, once lit, don’t carry it anywhere.
7. Forgotten candles
Candles make great centrepieces at Christmas but they tend to get forgotten.
One couple dozed off after having their fill of turkey, forgetting a lit candle, which burnt their tablecloth and the table itself.
Another was putting up the Christmas tree, and knocked over a candle that burnt a hole in the fish tank, which in turn spilt its contents over onto two laptops and a camera.
Tip: Just apply common sense. Keep kids and pets away from candles and never leave candles unattended.
8. Leaking trees
Buying a real Christmas tree for the first time this year? Well, don’t forget it’s real.
Carpets often get damaged by water leaking from the base of the tree. This can be made worse if you wrap crepe paper around the bottom of the tree, which can stain the carpet if dye runs from it. Tree sap can sometimes stain carpets too.
Tip: The outer layer of the tree provides most of the water absorption, so don’t be tempted to chop chunks of bark off the side to make it fit into your stand.
9. Unwelcome guests
It’s not uncommon for busy hosts to find all sorts of unexplained stains and damage after their Christmas guests have gone, especially if there were kids around.
Perhaps worse, one host found that the bed in which some relatives had slept was left infested with bed bugs.
Tip: If you’re unfortunate to be left with bedbugs, you’ll probably need professional help to get rid of them.
10. Winter damage
If you intend to go away for some time over Christmas, then plan ahead to protect your home from the winter weather and potential damage, ranging from frozen or burst pipes and broken boilers to tiles flying off your roof.
Tip: Reduce the risk of burst or frozen pipes while you’re away by leaving your central heating system on at a low temperature.