Put down the hammer: 9 DIY jobs that might invalidate your home insurance

Considering DIY to combat rising costs? You may want to think again. We uncover what can invalidate your house insurance.

There’s no denying the thrill of some successful do-it-yourself. Whether it’s an easy DIY project updating your paintwork or simply fitting some new shelves, the satisfaction of seeing the results is unquestionable.

But as the cost of living rises and we turn our hands to increasingly complex household jobs, are we making a mistake? In short, the answer is yes.

If you don’t have accidental damage cover, you won’t be able to claim for DIY disasters, and if you don’t call in the experts for jobs involving electricity or gas, you could invalidate your house insurance and break the law.

ripped brown paper with words are you covered typed underneath the ripCredit: Shutterstock/ShahrilKHMD
Always read the small print before you commence with any DIY

Please ensure you read your own home insurance documents to confirm what is and isn’t covered, as policies will differ.

1. Electrical work

Why it pays to know your Ps (and Qs)

When it comes to household repairs involving electrics, as well as insurance restrictions there are laws in place that prevent you from preforming certain jobs around the home.

While we’re not suggesting you need to call in an expert to simply change a lightbulb, ‘Part P’ of the Building Regulations laws for England requires that you do not undertake certain electrical work within these areas without being qualified:

In a dwelling house or flat, and to parts of the installation that are:

  • Outside the dwelling – for example, fixed lighting and air conditioning units attached to outside walls, photovoltaic panels on roofs, and fixed lighting and pond pumps in gardens
  • In outbuildings such as sheds, detached garages and domestic gardens

If in these areas you want to carry out certain jobs that are classed as notifiable, you need to employ a registered tradesperson. Notifiable tasks also include working with electricity in bathrooms.

Saga’s home insurance experts explain: “An insurer is very likely to refuse cover if the homeowner is not actually qualified to do the work they want to do. For example, if they want to rewire the house and they aren’t a qualified electrician, a normal home insurance policy probably isn’t going to want to cover that type of risk.

“However, specialist cover is out there for this sort of project, called self-build insurance, and it can potentially cover all the way up to building an entire home yourself from scratch.”

In short, if you don’t employ a qualified tradesman or don’t apply for the correct insurance and something goes wrong, you could face a fine of up to £5,000 and get a big fat zero when you claim on your insurance.

2. Gas hob or boiler fixes

Anything fuelled by a flame should be left to the experts

“If you’re not a gas professional or a Gas Safe engineer, then servicing your own boiler is also illegal under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998,” says Andy Simms, a property expert from MyBuilder.com.

And although it’s not illegal to never service your boiler, if it does break down or cause issues, a lack of servicing history may invalidate your insurance.

“Fixes or maintenance on boilers, heating systems or electrics should always be carried out by certified experts,” says Simms. “Or you will face a big bill should it all go wrong.”

So whilst it may be tempting to figure out what a boiler service includes and attempt it for yourself, the risks simply aren’t worth the savings.

3. Painting, decorating and drilling

You’ll need accidental damage cover in case of a DIY disaster

According to the experts, a standard home insurance policy may not cover you if your DIY goes awry.

Saga’s home insurance team tells us: “Accidental damage cover is required if you’re doing DIY and something goes wrong; for example, you’re decorating a room and accidentally spill paint all over the carpet, or you’re installing a wall-mounted TV and accidentally drive a screw through a water pipe.

Advice on Confused.com states: “Your accidental damage policy may not pay out if you cause damage while doing a job you’re not qualified to do. Unfortunately, watching 10 YouTube tutorials on unblocking a drain doesn’t make you a plumber.”

Instead, the company advises to “hire a tradesperson with liability insurance to help you with the job if you don’t think you can do it”.

4. Plumbing

Even unblocking a drain could cause a drama

Saga Insurance experts tell us: “If you’re not a qualified plumber then expect the insurer to take a fairly dim view of you doing it all yourself.

“It’s also worth highlighting that many insurance policies have an exclusion for faulty workmanship, because the expectation is that if (for example) you have a new bathroom fitted and then the plumbing leaks a month later and causes property damage, the cost of that would be met by the liability cover of the company or tradesperson who did the work improperly.

“If you did the work yourself,” they say, “then there’s no liability cover to claim against, meaning the homeowner is probably going to be left with the repair bill. So while unblocking a drain by yourself for example is usually fine, if you caused damage to the drain in the process then you’d need accidental damage cover to claim for it.”

5. Installing animal flaps

Even small ones need to be declared

Don’t assume that size matters when it comes to installing cat or dog flaps. Making an opening of any kind in a door is considered a compromise in safety. When you’re applying for insurance, most companies will ask if you have one, which is fine, as you’re prompted to say yes.

However, install one during your policy without declaring it and you could make your insurance policy void.

Saga Insurance experts explain: “Some policies include a clause that states theft is only covered when it involves forcible and violent entry. So if a burglar is able to reach through the cat flat and pull the key out of the lock in your back door, you could fall foul of that clause.”

6. Installing solar panels

It’s OK to purchase them independently, but get an expert to fit them

If you’ve looked at how much solar panels cost, and wondered if you could save yourself some money by installing them yourself, think again. It’s guaranteed to void your insurance policy, according to Simms.

“Some people are turning to buying and installing their own, which is not only potentially dangerous, but is likely to render your insurance useless in the event of a problem,” he says.

The good news? “There is no harm in shopping around for second-hand or discounted panels, but always get an expert to install them.”

Saga experts confirm: “Installing solar panels requires professional knowledge of both roofing and electrical, and usually needs scaffolding, too. So again, if you’re not qualified in all aspects of the job, you’re not likely to be covered by home insurance for any damage which results from botching the installation. This could be severe, such as a roof leak or an electrical fire, so we would strongly advise using a qualified solar engineer.”

For more information on what’s involved, read how solar panels are installed.

If you’re having scaffolding put up, you should always tell your insurer, even if the work you’re doing usually wouldn’t require it, as scaffolding can increase the risk of being burgled.

7. Window and door fixes

If you can’t ensure they’re secure, get an expert in who can

“Insecure windows and doors are a big problem when it comes to payouts after burglaries,” says Simms. “Any cracks in windows, weaknesses in frames or dodgy locks should be replaced with urgency.

“In the unfortunate event of a break-in, if an insurance provider suspects a weakness in security, you will struggle to get a payout,” he adds.

Botch DIY jobs won’t wash with insurance companies so it’s important to make sure repairs are done properly. It’s also worth noting that if you end up having to install new windows and doors, they should always be supplied and fitted by a FENSA registered installer.

On a more positive front, if you do update and improve your security, always ensure you tell your home insurer, as it could mean a reduction in your annual fee.

8. Unblocking gutters

But be warned – it’s a catch 22

“Many home insurance companies also have it written into the small print that any claims relating to damage caused by improperly maintained properties will not result in a payout,” warns Simms.

Top of the list of DIY jobs that you need to keep on top of? Unblocking your gutters. However, if you cause a problem when doing them and you don’t have accidental damage, your insurer is unlikely to pay out on a claim. One solution may be to ask your window cleaner if they offer the service and if it’s covered under their own liability insurance.

Although a few autumn leaves clogging up your gutters may not sound much of a risk, leaving them blocked is a common cause of damp, says Simms. It’s this longer-term issue of damp that may result in an insurance claim.

Simms says: If your insurer has reason to believe that your gutters have not been cleared, they are unlikely to pay out for any damp related issues in your home.”

Cleaning gutters will involve working on a ladder at height. Always employ a professional if you do not feel safe performing the task.

9. Not keeping on top of repairs

Ironically, NOT doing DIY could cause insurance issues, too

Making sure damage is repaired quickly is vital, adds Simms. “Roof tiles coming off, cracks in walls or broken windows are all good examples of damage that needs to be repaired quickly.

“Should an issue occur in your home that can be attributed to problems that should have been fixed,” he says, “you’ll find yourself with no payout.”

Saga experts add that, “while policies usually require that the home is kept in a ‘good state of repair’, it doesn’t come with a strict definition,” so it’s important to check yours for clarity.

However, they do advise that as a minimum, “the roof of the property should be inspected once a year, or twice a year for a flat roof. Door and window locks should be kept in good working order, and any damage to windows themselves should be fixed quickly, as a home with a visible broken window is more likely to be targeted.

“If you have a burglar alarm, that should also be kept in good working order, especially if you’ve answered ‘yes’ about having one when taking out your insurance policy!

“Finally, any signs of damage which happens slowly over time must be addressed. For example, rising damp, black mould, or a slow leak in a pipe or tank. If any of these issues aren’t taken care of, any subsequent damage – for example, the ceiling falls in due to the accumulated damage caused by the slow leak – is very unlikely to be covered.”

Does your DIY add value?

If so, tell your insurer

It may seem common sense, but when you’re undertaking DIY work that adds value to your home, therefore increasing the potential value of a claim, you must tell your insurance company.

For example, while you may have the skills to add a small extension yourself, thereby in theory making it DIY, it can’t be treated as a minor change. As well as increasing the value of your home, if work goes wrong, your claim could be larger, or you may have reduced the security in some way.

Always be clear and honest to avoid risking invalidating your insurance. Even if you must pay more each year, an unpaid claim could have far greater cost implications.

According to Saga Insurance experts, non-disclosure is the most common reason for house insurance policies becoming invalid.

“Most home insurance policy booklets (including Saga’s) will include a list of things we expect the policyholder to tell us about, and renovations happen to be the second item on our list, right after leaving the property unoccupied.

“If the non-disclosure is judged to be deliberate, this can have serious repercussions, ranging from having the policy voided from inception (treated as if it had never existed) all the way up to criminal charges if a claim is being made fraudulently.”

We also contacted the Association of British Insurers to ask for their advice. They agreed with the information we’ve shared, telling us:

 “Everyone’s home insurance needs will be different, and policies may vary. But whether a DIY job will invalidate your insurance will often depend on the nature of the work you’re undertaking. If the work involves anything that would usually require a professional, such as changing electrics, plumbing or building work, then it is best not to risk it. Not only for your own safety, but also because your insurance may not cover you for accidents or damage caused.

“Home insurance policies – both buildings and contents – generally won’t cover DIY accidents as standard. So cover for issues such as drilling through a pipe or cable, or spilling paint on a sofa, will usually need to be bought as an add-on. If you’re looking to pick up the tools and do some DIY but aren’t sure what it will mean for your home insurance, speak to your provider, who will be able to advise.”

Sarah Harley

Written by Sarah Harley she/her

Updated:

Since first picking up a paintbrush and experiencing the joy of re-decorating her bedroom in a questionable red, white and grey scheme as a young teenager, Sarah Harley was hooked on the world of interior design. This obsession even led to a real life ‘Grand Designs’ project in 2005 when she donned a pink hard hat and appeared on TV screens, project managing the renovation and extension of a Grade II listed 17th century Folly in South Wales.

Throughout her career, Sarah has gained an array of experience in several different roles, ranging from copywriting, PR, events management and photography to interior design and home staging. With her two passions being the written word and the joys of a beautifully designed home, Sarah’s mission is to open the door on the world of interiors, inviting readers in to help them work their way through the vast choice of products, ideas and trends so that their own homes can reach their full potential.

Away from work, Sarah fills her Pinterest boards with more ideas, dreams of where to travel, takes photographs and loves being by the sea. She has two sons and if she absorbed everything they said would also be a football expert. The fact is she is often more interested in the colour and design of the kit – but don’t tell them that.

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