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Building Maintenance

Property Insurance is designed to indemnify for any losses or damage directly caused by the insured perils specified in the policy. Normal wear and tear is a specific exclusion of most insurance contracts and many claims are rejected on the basis that damage was more directly caused by poor maintenance rather than by an insured peril.

Insurance should never be seen as an alternative to good risk management. Routine, ongoing and preventative maintenance will not only help keep a property in a good state of repair but will also help make a property more resilient to potential losses.

Neglecting routine building maintenance will often result in the need for costly and more disruptive remedial work. This guide provides a checklist to help you protect your property, and to help establish a regime of good preventative maintenance. (click here to download checklist).

Building Inspections
Regular and systematic building inspections are a key part of any maintenance programme in order to help identify problems promptly. Early remedial action by a competent contractor is essential to prevent further, more costly, damage.

It may also be necessary to engage a competent person with the appropriate skills and equipment to carry out inspections in certain areas e.g. roofs. Intervals between inspections may vary depending on such things as the location, age, construction, usage etc. of a building.

Log books are indispensable for keeping track of maintenance regimes, identified problems and actions taken.

External Building Fabric
The fabric of a building needs frequent and careful examination particularly when in an exposed or elevated location.

Roofs
Roofs need to be inspected at least twice a year or following particularly stormy weather - debris on the ground from broken slates and tiles indicates that there is a problem. In some cases roofs can be inspected using binoculars or from vantage points on nearby higher buildings.

Repair or replace:

  • Missing, slipped or broken slates or tiles
  • Damaged or rusty cladding
  • Cracked flat roof coverings. A bitumen roofing felt may need to be completely renewed after 10 years.
  • Leaking or damaged rooflights
  • Damaged flashing
  • Gaps and missing mortar between ridge tiles

In addition moss, which retains damp, needs to be removed since it can cause slate to delaminate and can gradually erode all metals particularly lead work - a seasonal brushing down is often all that is required to prevent excessive build up.

Where puddles occur on flat roofing advice should be sought from a qualified building surveyor.

If safe to do so, additional inspection through the loft access may show daylight or water penetration which is not always apparent from external examination.

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Chimneys
Apart from cleaning twice yearly, repair or replace:

  • Damaged flashing
  • Damaged mortar

Lightning Conductors
Any lightning conductor systems need to be checked and maintained every 14/15 months by a suitably qualified and experienced person to ensure that they are undamaged, continue to conform to the relevant standards and provide the protection for which they were designed.

Walls
Walls need to be checked annually, not only for damage but also for evidence of dampness which may highlight another problem such as rising damp or damaged/blocked gutters or downspouts.

Unless designed otherwise external ground levels should be at least 150mm or two bricks below internal floor levels so as not to affect any damp proofing.

Climbing plants should be avoided or strictly controlled since they can hide problems, cause damage to the building fabric and block vents or gutters.

Clean, repair or replace:

  • Air bricks
  • Damaged or eroded mortar
  • Damaged or rusty cladding

Damaged or cracked bricks may be a sign of subsidence or settlement. Cracks may require monthly monitoring, particularly if diagonal. When in doubt seek specialist advice.

Rainwater Removal - Gutters, Gulleys, Downspouts and Drains
Blocked or damaged rainwater removal systems will allow damage to the building fabric or water ingress. The underground drainage system also needs to effectively remove water away from the property and not become blocked with leaves, silt, vegetation or grease.
Oil or grease should never be poured directly in to drains - kitchens need to have drainage systems fitted with grease traps or interceptors which are regularly cleaned and maintained.

Drainage systems need to be checked regularly and cleaned at least annually - more regularly if necessary e.g. when close to trees. The best time to inspect is during or straight after heavy rain as this will enable you to more easily identify any problem areas. A small hand held mirror can aid inspection behind rainwater pipes as cracks in old cast iron or aluminium sometimes occur there and might not be noticed.

Clean, repair or replace:

  • Gutters - valley and parapet types requiring especially close and regular attention
  • Downspouts - internal downspouts in particular need to have adequate protection against mechanical damage and must remain undamaged
  • The fixings for downspouts and gutters
  • Drains
  • Manholes – they should also be kept readily accessible
  • Ground gutters, surface channels

It can be beneficial to fit proprietary plastic leaf-guards to gutters and above downspouts. Also, regular painting of cast iron gutters and downspouts is important to prevent rust.

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External Joinery
An annual inspection of the condition of timberwork should be undertaken since, unless maintained, it will deteriorate, rot and allow water ingress. Redecoration should be expected every 3 – 5 years depending on the location. Check for cracking, rot and peeling paintwork.

Repair, renovate, replace as necessary:

  • Windows - also examine any putty and look for missing sealants around the frames
  • Doors, sills and frames - also examine any putty and look for missing sealants around the frames
  • Fascias, bargeboards etc

Trees
Trees can cause building movement and damage by removing moisture from the ground and, conversely, if removed when mature by allowing soils to expand. In addition tree roots notoriously invade underground drainage pipes causing blockages and damage. Not only is careful planting required, depending on the variety, but also regular pruning by a competent person - tree preservation orders should be considered before any work commences.

External Building Maintenance Checklist
Most insurers require that the property insured is maintained to a good standard and to take all reasonable precautions to prevent loss, destruction or damage. A good level of building maintenance will help ensure that the property remains resilient at all times and may even prevent damage and interruption to businesses in the first place.

It is important to advise your Insurer of any facts or changes which affect your insurance policy and which have occurred either since the policy started or since the last renewal date e.g. change in use, refurbishments, extensions etc.

This checklist should help you protect your property, and to help establish a regime of good preventative maintenance.

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