Give your home an MOT

Millions of us will spend time sprucing up our homes with a spot of DIY over the Easter break, but don’t neglect the more boring maintenance jobs, or you could risk hefty repair bills later on.

Failing to fix faulty guttering or replace missing roof tiles could cost you thousands of pounds and ruin any decorating you do inside. We look at why it’s really important to keep a close eye on your bricks and mortar…

Importance of regular maintenance

In these difficult economic times, there’s nothing more painful than being hit with massive bill for home repairs – especially if they could have been avoided.

Many people mistakenly assume that if something serious happens, for example, if a roof starts leaking, this will always be covered by insurance. But insurance is not a maintenance contract, and if the insurer can prove the roof was in a state of poor repair, they are within their rights to refuse a claim.

A difficult roof to fix

This is exactly what happened to me last December in the storms.  I live in a converted oast house (pictured right) – which was originally used for drying out hops for the brewing process – and the roof started leaking.

My insurer agreed to cover the cost of the broken water baffle in the cowl (the white bit at the top of the roof) as it had snapped in heavy winds and was allowing water to pour in.

But it would not pay for the re-surfacing of the roundel roof. Leaks through the roof itself were caused by poor maintenance by previous owners and not the storm said the insurer, which means we now face a steep bill to put it right.

While it is lovely having what looks like a giant upside-down ice-cream cone for a roof (which used to effectively be a big chimney) repairs to it don’t come cheap. The cost of erecting the scaffolding alone ran into thousands of pounds.

Prevention rather than cure

Unfortunately there was no way we could have found out about the problems with the roof without a crane, due to the height of our house. But for most people a visit to the attic should reveal any problems. Alternatively, use a pair of binoculars to scan the roof externally and make sure any missing or broken tiles are repaired as soon as possible.

Make sure any gutters are free from leaves too. If your house is damaged by water because your gutters are blocked, this is again considered general wear and tear by insurers, so therefore won’t generally be covered by your home insurance.

Check that your water pipes are well maintained and not cracked or damaged. If you are unlucky enough to have a burst pipe, turn off the water at the main stop valve as quickly as possible. If wiring or electrical appliances have been affected, do not touch them and get a professional electrician to check them out. Contact your insurer immediately and don't throw away any water-damaged items - you may need them as evidence when you submit a claim.

Other checks

Give your windows a thorough once over, and if the frames are wooden, check them for signs of decay. Ideally they should be painted every three to five years to keep them sound.

You should also keep a close eye on any vegetation which is growing near to your property. Prune back plants if they are growing on your walls as they can cause structural damage and dampness. Check your trees too for low hanging branches and unstable root structures which could potentially damage your home.

Seek out expert help

If there are maintenance jobs around your home which need doing, don’t attempt them yourself unless you are absolutely confident that you can do them correctly.

According to new findings from Santander Insurance, 13% of DIY and home improvement projects undertaken in the last year went wrong in some way, and as a result, people in the UK have collectively spent £169million fixing the damage.

Colin Greenhill, director of Santander Insurance, said the Easter Bank Holiday weekend was a ‘golden opportunity’ to get stuck in to some long-overdue tasks around the home.

But he added this warning: “Our research highlights that a significant proportion of DIY jobs go wrong; during one of the Bank Holiday weekends last year we even saw a 44% increase in accidental damage claims.

“Our advice to anyone attempting home improvements is to be realistic about whether they have the skills and the time to undertake such a task, to make sure that they have insurance that covers them if things don’t go to plan and to seek help from a tradesman where necessary.”

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