Will home insurance cover renovations and extension?

We are having some renovations carried out together with building a small extension. Will our home insurance be enough during the course of the build?

Getting insurance cover right can be a complex business. It’s crucial you are well protected on your side through your own home insurance cover, and that the workers on site are appropriated covered by their own insurance for injury and/or damage and loss to your home or any adjacent property. 

The insurance responsibility is shared between you and the contractors. You are inviting these people onto your home ground. Even if they are insured fully, you might well become liable if someone gets hurt swan diving off a ladder you provided, or their tools are stolen or damaged. So, let’s start with the home insurance policy.

For small projects like re-tiling the bathroom, a bog-standard policy may be fine, but for ambitious structural alterations (even just to the interior of the house), you may not be covered with your current product. From the insurer’s point of view, building work increases risk, and many insurers therefore offer a specialist short-term product called “renovation insurance”. This muscles up your standard cover to include the kinds of things that happen in and around a building site. 

Renovation insurance covers extra occurrences.
Renovation insurance covers extra occurrences.

This kind of product will always contain public liability insurance (for injury and damage) and can include legal fees if a dispute arises with your contractors, cover for alternative accommodation where needed, and other useful cover. It does not act as a guarantee on the quality of the work.

Simply going ahead with a significant renovation and then making a claim on a standard house insurance policy, you may find the policy was completely invalid because you broke its terms. It’s simply a matter of communicating to your insurance provider what you’re intending to do, when you plan to do it, who is doing the work, and detailing any significant material changes about to be made to the house. 

This would include any change in size (which might push up the value of the house when you renegotiate the policy — what’s called a revision of building sum). 

Your insurance provider should be able to provide enhanced cover for an additional premium for the period of the renovation (renovation insurance), and then tailor a policy for the renovated house. Even if you’ve jumped in with two feet and works are underway contact your insurer.

What are the works being carried out? Have a list in hand with reasonable detail and spatial measurements before you call. There are some “improvements” that might actually void your home insurance, or the guarantees attached to the house when it was originally built. 

Some insurers don’t like spray foam on the attic rafters, while others will cover you. They will often ask for safety and fire certification to be provided on completion of jobs like electrical rewiring. Major cosmetic renovations like changing out the windows or putting in a new kitchen should also be flagged to your insurer.

Going over a potential or current policy, what exactly does any “accidental damage” cover? Double-check any exclusions. Personal accident cover, again an optional extra, will offer a limited amount for injuries during DIY work if you’re putting in some sweat-equity. It probably won’t pay out for performing stunts you’re clearly unqualified to do. 

Professional trades will bring everything they need to finish the job to site (bar materials supplied by you — for instance, timber or tiling). Even with adequate insurance in place, be very careful about handing over your own tools and setting them up. If a worker gets hurt using them, they are your defective tools, you put that person in danger, and you could be liable.

If you are going to move out for a period while work is undertaken, again tell your insurer the house is likely to be uninhabited and supply the dates if possible. An empty house and one with crews coming and going is more vulnerable. A phone call or email can save you an ocean of trouble if down the road you make a claim touching on these improvements or something untoward happens on site. 

If you cannot find your current policy, ask for a full copy with all the microscopic T&Cs to be sent out to you or forwarded as a PDF. We’re preempting rare disasters, creating confidence in our insurance cover. 

Renovation and extension is expensive enough without a crippling financial loss that could have been prevented by crafting a good insurance policy with additional or specialist renovation cover. If you’re not satisfied with your current insurer’s response or pricing, a dedicated broker may be able to find you a better deal.

So, your renovation insurance should protect you in the case of valid claims by an outsider working on your home, but that does not mean you should invite uninsured individuals to undertake serious work on the house. High work, electrical work, plumbing, and just about all structural work demands dedicated builders/trades insurance. It’s up to the contractor to pay for any injury or damage that occurs that’s clearly their fault through their own insurance product. 

This insurance includes reconfiguring anyone else’s property during the job (for instance if they backed their lorry into your neighbour’s gateposts while turning). Your insurance company is very likely to ask you for proof that your contractor carries public liability insurance.

The contractor carrying out the work should be fully covered by employer’s liability, public liability and in some instances product liability insurance (for instance, something brought to the site is damaged or faulty). Their insurance should cover any sub-contracted individuals they bring to your home. Don’t just accept an airy statement regarding insurance (I’ve had laminated paperwork waived angrily under my nose for even asking). 

Contact the firm at the quote stage and ask them to verify that they are VAT registered with current, comprehensive insurance in place ahead of starting the job. When the workers come to the site, inform the entire team of any risks and hazards you’re aware of — an unstable wall, or failing wiring. Backed up by appropriate insurance on both sides, reputable companies will work with you to deliver a great result while avoiding material damage and above all, keeping everyone safe and sound.

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