Home improvements – when do you need to tell your insurer?

10 min Read Published: 08 Jul 2021

When you need to tell your insurer about home improvement projectsThe coronavirus pandemic saw millions of us utilising our time at home to make improvements to our properties, from adding an extension to converting the loft into a suitable work-from-home office.

However, your standard home insurance policy most likely will not cover you for significant renovations or works. So before you get started on making your dream home a reality, you should contact your insurer to let them know your plans, and find out if - and to what extent - your home insurance policy can cover you for damage to your property during construction.

In this article, we explain what kinds of home improvements you need to tell your insurer about, why it's necessary, and some ways you can maximise your cover if your home is undergoing major construction work.

Does home insurance cover home improvements or renovations?

Most home insurance plans are unlikely to cover you for the damage that your building could sustain due to structural changes, such as an extension or loft conversion. You may be covered for smaller projects, such as minor plumbing or a kitchen renovation, but you should check the small print of your insurance nevertheless to understand the extent of your cover.

You will need to tell your insurer before you begin the work or you could risk invalidating your cover. Once your insurer knows about the work you are undertaking, it can tell you if you will be covered for the duration of the project and after it is complete.

You should inform your insurer before you begin any major home improvement or renovation project to maximise your chances of being covered should anything go wrong.

For more home insurance advice, check out our article "What is home insurance?".

The home improvements you need to tell your insurer about

You don’t need to inform your insurer about cosmetic changes to the interior of your home, such as painting walls or putting up some shelves, but you should tell them about works that may affect the structure of the building before you begin.

This could include:

  • extending a room
  • re-roofing
  • adding a conservatory
  • a loft conversion
  • removing a load-bearing wall

The details your insurer should be informed about should include:

  • how long the work will take to complete
  • the projected costs
  • whether you’ll be staying at the house or moving out during the work
  • your builder's details
  • whether your builder has public-liability insurance

Why you need to inform your insurer about home improvements

You need to inform your insurer if you plan to begin any major alterations to your property because undertaking work not covered by your policy could invalidate it and leave you without sufficient insurance.

This is because significant works such as extensions or adding a room can involve you having to temporarily move out of your home, have workers and building materials on site, or leave parts of the property exposed to the elements while construction is carried out, all of which can affect the extent that your insurance can cover the cost of damage to your property.

In addition, major renovations can alter the total sum you will have to pay to keep your property insured, so you should also use it as an opportunity to find out if your home-insurance premium will rise as a result.

Are you covered if you do the work yourself?

DIY projects are notoriously tricky when it comes to home-insurance claims. For small jobs, like decorating, you won’t have to let your insurer know, but you will need to inform them of major changes, such as altering a load-bearing wall. If your home insurance includes accidental-damage cover, you'll most likely be covered for minor issues like drilling through a pipe. But if you cause damage as a result of a large DIY project that you're not actually qualified to be carrying out, you might have to pay out of your own pocket if things go wrong. If you’re undertaking a large structural project by yourself, you’ll likely need a self-build insurance policy. As always, if in doubt, contact your insurer and check.

What can you do to maximise your cover during home improvements?

Accidental-damage cover

Accidental-damage cover is sometimes included in home insurance, but usually is sold as an optional extra. It can offer a fall-back for minor damage sustained as a result of accidents during construction, so you may be able to recoup some of the costs associated with fixing or replacing items, but it will not cover you for significant damage to the property such as a collapsed wall or an accidental fire.

Some situations that might typically be covered are:

  • falling through an attic floor
  • broken glass in windows, doors, fan lights, skylights and solar panels
  • damaged wash basins, pedestals, baths, sinks, toilets and showers
  • broken or blocked service cables, pipes, septic tanks and wires
  • broken locks or keys

As always, read your policy terms carefully to find out exactly what you will or won’t be covered for.

Specialist-renovation insurance

Specialist renovation insurance can cover you for a range of scenarios which may arise during the construction process of major home renovations, where your home may be exposed to the elements, structurally unstable, vulnerable to theft, and controlled by contractors.

Policies vary from insurer to insurer, but might include cover for:

  • damage to the existing structure of the property
  • damage to or loss of possessions in your home, or in temporary storage
  • alternative accommodation if your house becomes uninhabitable as a result of the building work
  • theft of building materials or equipment on-site
  • public-liability cover in case of accidents to others during building work
  • personal accident cover for injuries to you due to the work
  • legal expenses cover
  • unoccupied-property insurance if you’re not living there for more than 30 days
  • accidental damage – for example, in case somethings spilt on a carpet or a window is broken

As always, read your policy terms carefully to find out exactly what you will or won’t be covered for.

Self-build home insurance

Self-build insurance is a specialist home insurance that protects you and your home if you're making major changes to the building yourself. It covers you against the risk of any damage or injuries that might happen on your self-build site, and can also include liability cover and physical-damage cover. Most non-standard home insurers don’t offer this type of cover so you’ll need to contact a specialist provider.

Some scenarios that may be covered include:

  • physical loss or damage to the property caused by a fire, accidental damage, storms, floods, theft or vandalism
  • physical loss or damage to building materials caused by a fire, accidental damage, storms, floods, theft or vandalism
  • any temporary buildings that you or your workers are using or living in from physical loss or damage from fire, accidental damage, storms, floods, theft or vandalism
  • the cost of replacing materials that are stolen from site

Again, read your policy terms carefully to find out exactly what you will or won’t be covered for.

Make sure your builder is insured

Since standard home-insurance policies don’t usually cover significant building works, it’s crucial to check that whoever is doing your work has their own liability insurance.

Most professionals should have their own insurance to cover the work they're conducting and any resulting damage, and it usually covers any damage sustained to your neighbours’ properties as a result of the construction too, so it’s definitely worth checking that it’s in place before you begin.

The easiest way to do this is by checking that your builder has a valid insurance certificate. Make sure to check that it doesn’t expire during the course of the project, and take a copy or even a photo with your mobile just in case you need to refer back to it.

Looking for a financial adviser near you?

Do you need financial advice? An independent financial adviser can show you how to make the most
of your money. Find your nearest qualified and regulated adviser using this VouchedFor search tool.