Water leak in the house

23 April 2015

Plan today for tomorrow

Barclay Sansom, Lead Insurance Product Manager, at Principality Building Society looks at how you can avoid unwanted financial outlays on home maintenance.

Aside from monthly mortgage payments, home repairs have the potential to be one of the biggest financial outlays for both new and established homeowners. It is an unfortunate but unavoidable fact of life that boilers break down, that roof tiles can come away in high winds, and that guttering can get clogged and collapse if not maintained properly.

Despite this, more than half of UK families questioned by insurance specialist Aviva said their biggest financial concern in 2014 was how to cover the cost of unexpected spending like major repairs to the home (58%).

So bearing in mind that replacement guttering can cost up to £205* and the estimated cost of installing a new boiler can be as much as £2300*, one thing remains clear – although these costs are dependent on the dimensions, age and health of the home in question, housing repairs in any event are rarely cheap. 

So what measures can be introduced in the short term to take the sting out of such eventualities later down the line? 

Firstly, start from the top - quite literally! It is essential to make yourself aware of the current state of your roof or that of any new property you may be looking to buy. Thanks to our great British weather, any external damage to a roof could more than likely translate into internal water damage, so inspecting loft panels and walls for mould and stains should be a regular occurrence for homeowners, who should flag any untoward discoveries immediately. 

Regular inspections of your roof tiles and of your flashing – that is any measures taken to make the roof watertight, such as expansion joints and other membranes – should also be conducted for the same reason, particularly after periods of inclement weather. 

While you’re outside, it’s also important to keep on top of your gutters and down pipes. Old and leaky guttering obviously throws up damp issues but  can also compromise a property’s entire structure if left unchecked for long enough. While admittedly not the most enjoyable job, regularly cleaning out gutters will significantly prolong their lifespan and cut down on unwanted additional maintenance costs in the future. 

Moving inside, and putting aside the cost of simply replacing a boiler, the cost of general maintenance alone can be sizeable. Gas boilers can cost as much as £720 a year to run and the cost of the average electric boiler more than doubles this, at around £1600*. 

With this in mind, sealing any cracks around your windows, doors and floorboards not only has the added benefit of reducing heating bills when the cold sets in, but also helps improve the health and lifespan of all of these fixtures, which are extremely expensive to replace otherwise. And while you are spring cleaning, have a thorough look at the floors and frames around your doors - gaps and cracks here can also be treated easily with interior caulk. 

Despite all of these important preventative measures, it’s virtually impossible to achieve complete peace of mind where home maintenance costs are concerned without a comprehensive home insurance policy in place, however. Recent years have seen unprecedented levels of extremes and unpredictably in the UK climate and many houses, especially older ones, might not be able to cope with these meteorological strains as well as others. 

It is certainly possible to save pleasantly surprising amounts of money with small check-ups and alterations around the home, not least because your home insurance won’t cover you for wear and tear. So in the event of a storm if the roof was deemed to have not been maintained well then the roof may not be covered, only the internal damage.

But putting long-term protection in place to safeguard your home is something that it simply isn’t worth skimping on. Some buildings insurance policies will not only cover your home for major events including fires, storms, floods and subsidence, for example, but additional structures around the property including fencing, garages, outside walls and driveways, may also be protected too. 

With this in mind, unusual characteristics relating to a specific property – those which are located close to water or that may be unoccupied for large periods of time, for example – should also be declared at the outset for the same reason.

In any event, it’s vital to not only shop around but also ensure that in taking out or renewing any existing policy you are aware exactly what you are and aren’t covered for, to avoid any nasty surprises further down the line. Of course, it goes without saying that prudent financial planning along the way will also ensure that you are able to be on the front foot in responding to any unwelcome repair bills. 

*Figures taken from Aviva Family Finance Report 2014 – 

All remaining figures taken from tradeadvisor.com -
* http://www.tradeadvisor.com/a/cost-guides/guttering-prices  
* http://www.tradeadvisor.com/a/cost-guides/boiler-cost-guide 
* http://www.tradeadvisor.com/a/cost-guides/guide-to-roofing-costs 
* http://www.tradeadvisor.com/a/cost-guides/boiler-cost-guide 

Published: 23/04/2015