Buildings Insurance Hints & Tips
Learn what potential problems to look out for and help keep your home safe, secure and properly maintained.
Our Buildings Insurance helps to protect your home from all kinds of events including storm, flood, fire, smoke damage and earthquakes.
We're here to help if the worst happens, but there are some simple things that you can do as a homeowner, to ensure that your home is safe, secure, water-tight and properly maintained.
Most insurance policies including our own, don't cover maintenance, wear or tear or damage that happens gradually over a period of time, like damp or rot - you'll need to check with your own insurer what your policy covers. Your property should be kept in good condition so as not to invalidate any future claims.
Here are some common problems that people may face and what you can do to minimise them – after all, prevention is better than cure.
Always be cautious when undertaking any task that you're not fully familiar with as you could injure yourself or those around you, seek professional help where required.
Loose roof tiles can be dislodged in a storm, or slowly let in water, which can affect the fabric of your home.
People sometimes forget to inspect the roof regularly to ensure that it's still intact - you could do this with binoculars.
Often the first sign that water is getting into your house, is a damp patch on the walls of your upstairs rooms. Damp can affect plasterwork and wood, so it's important to sort out any water ingress, as soon as you spot it.
Water can seep in through damaged flashings. Erosion of brickwork can also be responsible for leaks and damp. You can check with binoculars to see the condition of the mortar around the chimney. If you don’t use the chimney flue, find out whether your chimney is capped, to prevent water coming in from above.
A chimney cowl keeps rain out and prevents birds and squirrels getting into the top of your chimney.
If you've recently moved into your home, don’t light a fire until you've had the chimney swept and have done a smoke test to check the lining of the chimney is intact.
Walls and structure
Bowed or cracked walls are a bad sign, whether they're part of the house, or are visible in a retaining wall.
If you notice any issues with your walls, it's best to have them checked by a certified building surveyor, who can investigate the problem. Rain, wind or frost can accelerate the process of deterioration, so it's better to fix the problem as soon as it appears, rather than leaving it for too long.
Small cracks in the plaster inside old houses are, however, quite common and can be due to movement of the house. A surveyor can tell you if they need attention, but they don’t usually present any real problems.
Drains and gutters
A major cause of damp in homes can be due to water build-up in drains and gutters. Often these are blockages caused by autumn leaves, debris, plants growing in tiles and gutters, or damage to pipes and guttering.
Outside you may be able to see patches of damp – sometimes visible as a green discolouration. Inside, the wall may be discoloured, or you may see salts coming through the plaster.
Make sure you clean out gutters regularly and fit a cover over your drains to prevent leaves collecting in it. These are simple precautions you can take a couple of times a year, which can help prevent damp getting into your walls and brickwork.
Trees can be a major problem for homeowners. Unstable or damaged trees can be dislodged by heavy rain or storms and fall, causing injury and structural damage to your home, as well as to parked vehicles and outbuildings.
It’s important to keep trees pruned and cut back, but check first whether any of the ones on your property have a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). Depending on the size of the job, some tree pruning can be done by yourself, but if you're not comfortable doing this, contact a qualified tree surgeon. You should always be cautious when undertaking any task that you're not fully familiar with, as you could injure yourself or those around you, seek professional help where required.
Property can also be affected by subsidence or movement caused by trees growing too close to your house, although other factors, such as soil type, can have more of an effect. Some trees take more water from the ground than others and any tree which is too close may affect your foundations.
If you have a tree on your property which is near to your house, a road or footpath, it's advisable to have a professional survey every couple of years, to ensure it's healthy and doesn’t pose any risk.