Are home improvements covered by home insurance?

If you’re planning to extend, improve or alter your home, you should contact your insurance company before you start work. Doing so will ensure you’re covered for any mishaps during the project and that you will be able to make an insurance claim.

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Why your insurance company needs to know about building work

Major work or renovations to your home such as building an extension, altering the property’s layout, converting a loft or excavating a basement, raises the risk you pose to an insurance provider.

There could also be an increased risk of your possessions being accidentally damaged or someone getting injured in your home. Having windows, walls or doors removed will make your home less secure than usual.

You don’t normally have to tell your insurer if you are installing a new bathroom or kitchen – but it’s worth checking.

What will my insurer want to know?

Once you’ve told your insurer about the work you have planned, it will ask you some questions to help it work out what level of extra risk, if any, the work poses to your home.

Your insurer’s questions may cover the following:

  • The cost of the work
  • How long it will take
  • Whether the property will be unoccupied while the work is being carried out
  • The name of any builders or contractors you’re hiring
  • Whether the contractors you hire have public liability insurance

Will the property be occupied during the work?

Whether your home will be occupied during the work is very important. Most home insurance policies state that cover will be restricted if your property is left unoccupied for more than 30 or 60 days.

Typically, things like loss or damage from theft, malicious damage and water damage will be excluded if your home is unoccupied for long periods. However, your insurer may continue to cover you on the proviso that the property is visited regularly or certain precautions are taken.

Will there be changes to my insurance policy?

Once your insurer has all the information about the work you have planned, it will decide what to do. There are three main possible scenarios.

  • There won’t be any changes to your policy and cover will continue as normal
  • You’ll have to pay an extra premium to cover the work being done
  • Your insurer won’t cover the work being done

Specialist renovation insurance

If your insurer is unable to cover major renovations to your home, it’s a good idea to take out specialist renovation insurance. This type of insurance policy should cover you for:

  • Damage to your building and contents during renovations
  • Theft of your contents and building materials
  • Personal accidents
  • The property being unoccupied for more than 30 or 60 days
  • Building materials and equipment kept at the property

Legal expenses cover

Legal expenses cover is usually offered as an add-on to home insurance policies.

It pays for your legal fees if you have to go to court over something to do with the property, such as a dispute with a neighbour, or if you need to sue a contractor who has done work on your home. Some policies also cover other legal issues such as personal injury and employment disputes.

This kind of cover can give you peace of mind that if you hire a tradesperson to work in your home and something goes wrong, you’ll be able to access legal advice for free.

Your builder should have insurance

If you’re hiring a builder, contractor or tradesperson to work in your home they should have the following insurance in place.

Contractor’s all-risk cover: This covers the builder if work being carried out is accidentally destroyed before completion or before it’s covered by your home insurance. For example, you might be having an extension built and it catches fire.

Public liability insurance: This covers the builder if the work causes any injury to a third party or damage to third party property. For example, a tile might fall from the roof and injure a passer-by or dent their car.

Employer’s liability insurance: This covers any accident or injury caused to the builder’s employees.

When the work has finished

One of the factors insurance companies base premiums on is how much your home would cost to rebuild if it was totally destroyed. This is known as the “rebuild cost” and it is usually lower than your property’s market price.

Renovating, extending or altering your home could affect your home’s rebuild cost so you need to tell your insurance company about any work you have done.

Gardens, garages and outbuildings

If you’re planning to landscape your garden, erect a new shed or build an outhouse, your insurance is unlikely to change, but it’s worth double checking.  

A good home insurance policy should cover the contents of your shed, garage and any outbuildings. However, there may be a maximum limit for theft from outbuildings, and expensive items such as power tools and bikes might not be covered as standard.

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