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7 issues that can affect your home. Is my home insured?

Home insurance is a way to protect your property and its contents in case they're damaged or lost. But it can be hard to know what it will cover.

Here, we look at common problems that can affect homes, like leaks, cracks, storms, flooding and subsidence. How likely are they to be covered and what can you do to prevent them?

a house with trees and bushes

Will my home insurance cover it?

Let's look at the common issues that can cause damage to your home. As well as tips on how to avoid them, we'll let you know what you might be able to claim for and what you probably won’t.

Remember to read any home insurance policy carefully so you understand what it does and doesn’t cover. Contact your insurer if you need anything explained.

Condensation on windows

Condensation happens when water vapour in the air meets a colder surface, like a wall or windowpane. The vapour turns back into water, which pools on window and door sills. Over time it can lead to damp, mould and rot.

Most home insurance won’t cover condensation damage if it's due to wear and tear, neglect or poor maintenance. But some may cover accidental damage, like that caused by a burst pipe or storm.

Take steps to avoid condensation.

  •  Ventilate your home properly
  • Inspect it often
  • Keep its temperature consistent
  • Tackle signs of moisture or mould early
  • Solve issues before they get more serious

There’s more on how to prevent condensation in the ‘common questions’ section later.

Blocked or leaking gutters

Blocked gutters can be bad for buildings. They can prevent good drainage from your roof in wet weather. This can cause water to leak into your home and damage to its roof or foundations. If water seeps through wall cavities and gaps in brickwork it can lead to damp and mould.

Some home insurance policies may cover the costs of repairs if water damage is caused by a storm or other covered peril. But they may not pay out if the damage is seen as due to poor maintenance, such as not keeping gutters clear and in good order.

It’s a good idea to check your gutters for blockages twice a year. If you have overhanging trees, increase that to three or four times.

Read more: clearing your gutters and how it impacts your home insurance.

Protect your property today in case of damage tomorrow

Cracks in your home

Cracks in walls and ceilings can have lots of causes. Here are a few examples.

  • New houses or extensions settling once they’ve been built
  • Plaster drying out and shrinking
  • Temperature and humidity changes making materials expand and shrink
  • Vibrations from nearby traffic
  • Long spells of very dry weather
  • Old, shallow foundations

Most cracks are cosmetic and nothing to worry about. But some causes can be more serious.

  • UPVC windows and doors fitted without a load-bearing lintel
  • Old mining works
  • Foundation damage from underground leaks, flooding or tree roots
  • Subsidence (see next section)

If you have cracks in your home, ask an expert to identify the cause. If it’s covered by your policy, such as a storm or fire, you may be able to make a claim. But if it’s due to poor maintenance or neglect it may not be covered.

Subsidence and home insurance

Subsidence happens when the ground under a building sinks or shifts and pulls the foundations down with it.

Its causes include loss of moisture in the ground, due to long dry spells or tree or shrub roots growing close to the home. It could also be caused by old mining works.

The movement it causes can lead to cracks in a building's walls, floors and foundations. These may need expensive repairs. In severe cases, subsidence can even cause buildings to collapse.

Some of its causes, such as landslides or floods, may be covered by home insurance. But policies are unlikely to cover subsidence that’s the result of poor maintenance or neglect.

Weather and storm damage

Winter storms and heavy winds are getting more common in the UK. Extreme weather can be costly. Gales alone can cause up to £300 million of damage a year (source: Met Office).

The good news: most severe weather and storm damage is covered by home insurance. Here are some examples.

  • Roof tiles blown off or damage to ridge tiles
  • Lightning strikes to your property
  • Wreckage caused by falling trees or debris
  • Water entry after heavy rainfall or flooding
  • Backed up sewers
  • Loss of power
  • Frozen pipes

Here’s when insurers will typically consider storm and severe weather claims.

  • Storms rated above 10 on the Beaufort Scale
  • Rainfall of at least 25mm per hour
  • Snowfall of up to 30cm in 24 hours
  • Hail intense enough to damage hard surfaces or break glass

Other points to bear in mind about weather and storm damage:

  • Flat-roofed structures can be insured separately against it
  • Hedges, fences and gates aren’t usually covered
  • Damage due to wear and tear, poor maintenance or neglect isn’t usually covered

Read the ‘common questions’ section for some simple measures to help protect against storm damage.

Flooding and home insurance

Floods might seem a small risk for most homeowners. But the number causing widespread damage and disruption have increased in recent years. Heavy rains are more common (source: Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit). And more housing is being built in flood risk areas.

All this means it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re covered by home insurance.

Each insurer has a different view of flood risk. This will determine whether they offer you cover and how much it will cost. If they can't offer you a competitive quote, they’ll direct you to  the Flood Re scheme.

Set up by the government and insurers, the scheme helps cover homes that may be harder to insure. If your home floods, your claim will be dealt with as normal. The insurer recovers the cost from the scheme, so you don’t need to contact the scheme directly.

If you live in an area that’s at risk from flooding, sign up to receive the Environment Agency’s flood alerts. You’ll find details on how to sign up for flood alerts for the all UK home nations.

If your home has been flooded, the National Flood Forum offers support and advice.

Japanese knotweed

Japanese knotweed is an invasive plant. It can damage your property's foundation and walls.

Most home insurance policies don’t cover it. So check your policy wording and terms, or speak to your insurer, to see whether yours does.

For steps to prevent the spread of this plant, read our guide to protecting your property from Japanese knotweed.

Key takeaways

  • Home insurance can help protect you and cover repair costs if your property gets damaged
  • Check the policy wording and terms closely so you’re clear what it does and doesn't cover
  • Regular maintenance on your home will increase your chances of success if you need to claim
  • If there are problems with your property, talk to your insurer to see if they can help

Comprehensive protection for house and home

Common home insurance questions

  • Condensation is especially common in winter in the UK, but there are some simple steps you can take to prevent it from forming.

    • Keep lids on your pans when cooking, and switch on the extractor fan
    • Dry washing outside whenever possible
    • Make sure your windows are clean; dirty glass can trap moisture, leading to condensation
    • Place draught excluders around windows and doors in winter
    • Open a window, or use an extractor fan, when you take a shower to reduce steam build up
    • Use a dehumidifier, especially in the bedroom at night and near laundry drying indoors
    • Try to keep doors shut
    • Set thermostats at the same temperature in each room to reduce fluctuations in heat

    Longer-term solutions to prevent further condensation include:

    • improving your insulation to keep the temperature inside constantly above the dew point. This is where water vapour condenses and causes damp
    • upgrading to more modern double- or even triple-glazed windows and doors to keep the temperature and humidity at a constant level
    • increasing ventilation with airbricks in external walls or aeration tiles in the roof. A better airflow can help to prevent condensation from building up
    • installing a heat recovery system in rooms that can have high levels of condensation, like bathrooms and kitchens

    By taking these steps, you can help to prevent condensation from occurring in your home and avoid expensive repairs.

  • Regular maintenance of your gutters is key to preventing leaks and stopping damp forming in your home.

    Signs of blockages or damage to look out for include:

    • water running down the exterior walls of your home
    • leaking from pipe joints and junctions
    • sagging pipework
    • damp forming inside your home

    Some measures you can take to prevent guttering leaks include:

    • checking for cracks and damage, from up a ladder if possible, or out of upstairs windows
    • cutting back overhanging vegetation from plants and trees
    • checking for extra debris after a spell of bad weather such as storms or snowfall

    Follow these guidelines to help keep the gutters on your home in tip-top condition all year round. And, if you’re not confident about clearing your gutters yourself, consider getting a professional clean carried out.

    Read more: why clearing your gutters matters for your home insurance.

  • Cracks that are caused by natural settlement, thermal movement due to temperature changes, and lack of door and window lintels are usually classed as wear and tear, so are not covered by home insurance.

  • Cracks in the home can have various causes which aren’t always immediately apparent.

    Here’s a quick guide to common types of cracks and what you should do about them.

    • Negligible – less than 1mm wide; these are usually cosmetic and can be fixed with a little DIY
    • Slight – between 1mm and 5mm; easily fixed with filler or repointing on exterior walls
    • Moderate – 5mm to 15mm; these may require professional assessment of any underlying building problems
    • Severe – up to 25mm; these can be a sign of structural damage and should be looked at by a professional
    • Very severe – any crack above 25mm in width; these can be very serious as they suggest structural movement such as subsidence or issues with the foundations. Always seek professional advice for these types of cracks
  • Here are some tips to help prevent cracks in your home, maintain its structural integrity and avoid potential damage.

    • Maintain consistent humidity levels: if these fluctuate the materials in your home can expand and contract, leading to cracks. Using a humidifier or dehumidifier may help
    • Properly seal windows and doors: cracks around them can allow moisture and air to enter your home. This can cause damage and lead to cracks. Properly sealing all windows and doors helps prevent this from happening
    • Maintain proper drainage: make sure gutters and downspouts are properly installed and functioning to prevent water from pooling near your home. If moisture builds up near the foundations it can cause cracks and other damage
    • Monitor and address foundation issues: if you notice any cracks or shifting, contact a professional to address the issue

    By regularly inspecting your home for signs of cracks, you can catch issues early to prevent them from becoming bigger problems later.

  • A few tips to help prevent subsidence:

    • Make sure you maintain your home – repair cracks in walls or foundations, and keep gutters and drains clear
    • Don’t plant fast-growing trees or shrubs too close to your home, as they can dry out the soil and lead to ground movement
    • Have your home inspected by a qualified surveyor to spot any potential problems early on
    • Before you begin any large building work on your property, it's a good idea to have the area checked by a qualified engineer. They can give you the best advice on how to stabilise the ground and stop subsidence from happening

    Cracks that form as the result of subsidence or movement are usually covered by home insurance, unless deemed due to negligence, poor maintenance or wear and tear. You may have to pay an excess on any remedial work that has to be carried out.

  • Some steps you can take to help reduce the risk of a storm damaging your property include:

    • checking your pipes and repair any leaks
    • having proper insulation fitted
    • keeping your gutters and down pipes clear and free flowing
    • trimming back overhanging tree branches
    • keeping all windows and doors shut
    • putting garden furniture away indoors
    • parking any vehicles away from the risk of falling trees and tiles
  • A leaking roof can cause problems with your home's interior, including mould and water damage, which can be expensive to put right. Most home insurance policies will cover the cost of repairs if the damage is caused by a covered risk, such as a storm or severe weather. If the damage is the result of poor maintenance or neglect, though, your insurer may not cover the cost.

  • Here are a few things you could try to help limit damage if your home floods.

    • Lay tiles or waterproof wood downstairs instead of carpet
    • Fit water-resistant door and window frames
    • Install flood-proof skirting boards, air bricks and self-sealing vents
    • Move power points and fuse boxes to at least 1.5 metres above floor level
    • Mount your TV to the wall
    • Install non-return valves in drains so water doesn’t back up in flash floods
    • Keep valuables and important documents upstairs
    • Park your car uphill, away from the flood level

    If there's a flood alert, here are some steps to take before the waters rise.

    • Move outdoor pets indoors
    • Put sandbags around door frames
    • Turn off electricity, gas and water at the mains
    • Take electrical items and rugs upstairs
    • Lift curtains over the rail
    • Take smaller pieces of furniture upstairs
    • Raise large items on bricks or blocks
    • Keep important documents in watertight plastic bags (including your insurance details)
    • Have a mobile phone and charger upstairs
    • Keep a flood kit upstairs with blankets, a torch and bottled water

    If your home floods, the National Flood Forum can offer support and advice.

Buying and protecting your home