Home improvements and renovation insurance

Are home improvements, renovations and building work covered by your home insurance? Make sure you're covered while work's going on and afterwards.

Alice Morgan
Alice Morgan
Updated 25 May 2021  | 3 min read

Does home insurance cover home renovations?

Your home insurance is unlikely to cover you for the risks to your building during structural works, like an extension or loft conversion.

You might still be covered while smaller jobs like rewiring, plumbing or internal structural changes are going on, but the important thing is that you let your insurer know first.

Just 19% of 314 building insurance policies listed on Defaqto[1] include a minor building works limit – this is where you can get on with having work done (up to the value given in your policy) without telling your insurer.[1]

If your policy doesn’t have a minor building works clause, you must tell your insurer before work begins, or you could invalidate your cover.

Once your insurer knows about the work, it can tell you whether you’ll still be covered while it’s going on and afterwards.

Most will cover cosmetic work like kitchen or bathroom refits, but if the work’s extensive and your insurer can’t offer cover, you might have to look for a specialist renovation insurance policy.

Key points

  • Let your home insurer know before you begin any work
  • You won’t have to tell it if you’re just making cosmetic changes
  • Consider unoccupied property insurance if you need to leave your house empty while work's ongoing

Does your home insurer need to know about building work?

Yes. If you don’t let your insurer know before work begins, your policy could be invalid which might mean you’re unable to make a claim if you need to. For example, if there was a burglary during the work and the thieves gained entry though a removed door or window.

Renovations could affect the rebuild value of your home – that’s how much it would cost to reconstruct it from scratch.

Insurers use rebuild value to price your premiums. It’ll need to re-evaluate rebuild cost after renovating so you’re not underinsured.

You should speak to your insurer if you’re planning:

  • Structural alteration to the layout of your house e.g. removing a load bearing wall, an extension
  • Major structural renovations e.g. re-roofing, rewiring or re-plumbing
  • Loft, cellar, basement or integral garage conversions

It doesn’t need to know about:

  • Cosmetic improvements e.g. kitchen or bathroom refits
  • Redecorating

What does specialist renovation insurance cover?

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 – although you should also ask your builder for proof that they hold this cover too
  • 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 – in case somethings spilt on a carpet or a window broken, for example, during the work

What details will the insurer want to know?

You’ll need to tell the insurer some details about the planned work so it can give you a quote:

  • How long the work will take to complete
  • The cost
  • Whether you’ll be staying at the house or moving out during the work
  • Your builder's details
  • Whether they have public liability insurance

Will renovations increase the cost of my home insurance premium?

Our home insurance expert, Ceri McMillan says: “Buildings insurance covers the cost of repairing damage to the structure of your home. The amount covered is based on the cost of rebuilding your home from scratch.

“If the overall cost of rebuilding your home increases after renovation work, your premiums might go up. That’s because your insurer would have to pay more to rebuild your house if it were destroyed.”

Am I covered if I do the work myself?

If you're going to be getting the toolbox out, be careful. DIY is a notoriously contentious issue for home insurance claims.

For small jobs – like putting up a shelf – you won’t have to let your insurer know. But it’ll probably need to be informed if you’re altering a load bearing wall. If in doubt, call the insurer and check.

If your home insurance includes accidental damage cover, you'll be covered for minor mishaps like drilling through a pipe.

But if you botch a large DIY project that you're not qualified to be carrying out, you might have to pay out of your own pocket to put things right.

If you’re undertaking a large structural project yourself, you’ll likely need a self-build insurance policy.

Planning permission and home insurance

If you don’t have the correct planning permission in place this could invalidate your home insurance and mean you’re not covered.

For any extensive work done on your home, like adding extensions, loft conversions, or conservatories, you’ll need to let your insurer know as well as getting planning approval.

If the work isn’t carried out by qualified professionals and with the correct permits, you’re unlikely to be covered if something goes wrong with the property, either during the building work or once it’s finished.

You may also be served with an enforcement notice from the council ordering you to undo the changes you've made.

Do I need renovation insurance?

This will depend on the type and scale of the work you’re doing, and particularly if you’ll be making any structural changes - most standard home insurance won’t cover this and it could even invalidate your policy.

Before you begin, check with your home insurance provider to see if you’re covered. If you’re not covered by your current home insurance, you can take out renovation insurance.

This is a specialist type of insurance for home renovation. It often includes extra cover like public liability insurance, accidental damage and cover for tools and building materials.

Do I need to tell my insurer if I’m doing DIY work?

If you’re just making cosmetic changes like redecorating, this won’t affect your insurance, so you don’t need to tell your insurer.

But it only takes one clumsy moment for paint to be spilled on the carpet or a ladder to accidentally be put through a window.

To cover mishaps like this you’ll usually need to have accidental damage cover with your home insurance policy. But exclusions may apply, so it’s best to compare and check policies when you’re taking out cover. However, damage won’t be covered if it’s caused by your negligence.

It’s worth noting that you’ll want this type of cover on both your buildings and contents insurance to make sure you’re fully protected for DIY mishaps.

On the other hand, if you’re doing bigger projects that involve structural work, like knocking down walls, you’ll need to let your insurer know before you start.

If you’ve got any doubts about whether you’ll be covered for the work you’re planning, it’s always best to contact your insurer to check first.

Why do I need to tell them?

You’ll need to tell your insurer if you’ll be doing structural work for a number of reasons.

Not least is that if you don’t inform them you could end up invalidating your policy, leaving you unable to make a claim if something happened. For instance, if you were burgled.

Insurers will also want to know about any structural work because it increases the risk of an accident happening, so there’s more chance that you’ll need to make a claim.

And if your work will involve various tradespeople coming into your home it could mean windows and doors are left open, which would make your home less secure.

For these reasons, most standard home insurance policies won’t cover your home and its contents while this type of work is going on - this is where renovation insurance comes in.

Does home insurance cover DIY electrical work?

If you need electrical work done in your home, you should always use a qualified electrician to make sure it’s done safely.

Faulty wiring can be an accident waiting to happen, so if you attempt to do electrical work yourself you may invalidate your home insurance.

This could leave you unable to make a claim if something like a fire happened due to unsafe or incorrect wiring.

It’s always best to stay on the safe side and use a qualified tradesperson with liability insurance.

Do I need planning permission for a DIY project?

This depends on the project you’re planning to do. If the changes you’re making will involve building work to extend or alter your home, then it’s likely you’ll need planning permission.

Examples of when you might need planning permission include:

  • Constructing a new building on your property
  • Extending or altering the structure of your home
  • Changing the way a building’s used, for example turning a commercial building into a home
  • Doing work that would affect the stability of your home, like removing or altering internal walls
  • Carrying out work on a listed building or on your home if it’s in a conservation area

If you’re not sure whether you’ll need planning permission, get in touch with your local council or check for guidance on their website, most have a dedicated planning permission section.

Do I need building regulations approval?

Even if you don’t need planning permission you may still need to get building regulations approval, depending on the work you’re doing.

Most repairs, maintenance and replacements in your home won’t need building regulations approval, including DIY jobs like redecorating.

But for any work that involves extending or altering the structure of your home, or adding anything that needs plumbing - like toilets, bathrooms or washing facilities - where there hasn’t been anything in place before, you’ll need to comply with building regulations.

The work will need to be formally checked at key points and meet all requirements when it’s finished before you can receive a building regulations completion certificate.

Are there any gardening jobs I need to let my insurer know about?

If you fancy doing some general gardening or anything cosmetic outside that doesn’t involve structural work, you won’t need to tell your insurer.

This is because it won’t have much impact on what your home’s worth.

But while upgrading your shed is usually fine if you’re planning on building larger structures, like a summerhouse or pergola, you might need to let your insurer know.

How can I prepare for DIY work?

While DIY can save you money and give you a big sense of achievement once it’s finished, it can be a bit daunting if you’re a newbie to home improvements.

To help your DIY go smoothly and avoid mishaps, try taking the following steps:

  • Before you start any drilling use a detector to check for hidden pipes and wiring
  • If you’re painting on top of old paint, sand with fine sandpaper first and then clean with sugar soap before you start to help give a professional finish
  • Wherever possible move your furniture and possessions out of harm’s way and cover anything that can’t be moved with a dust sheet before you get cracking
  • Wear the right clothing, including footwear with a good grip, and consider wearing a face mask and goggles
  • Ask a friend to help you, especially if a ladder’s involved, and don’t be afraid to seek advice if you’re not sure how to do something
  • Read all the safety manuals and instructions for tools carefully before you start using them
  • If a project’s not going to plan, know when to stop and call in the experts

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[1]Last checked 9 December 2022

Page last reviewed: 06 December 2022

Next review due: 06 February 2023