Your guide to buildings insurance

A general guide to insuring the structure of your home

If you own your home, or you’re a landlord, buildings insurance covers the bricks and mortar, fixtures and fittings of your home. It’s compulsory with a mortgage but you don’t have to take any insurance your mortgage provider offers and you’re free to shop around for a provider that suits you best. Use our buildings insurance guide to learn what’s usually covered by a buildings insurance policy, which should make it easier to find the right policy for you.

What is buildings insurance?

It insures the structure of your home, ie walls, roofs and floors, against damage. It’ll also usually cover permanent fixtures like your bathroom suite, fitted kitchen and wall tiles. Some policies will also cover outbuildings like sheds, garages, stables, pools, patios driveways and garden walls.

What does buildings insurance cover?

It covers the cost of rebuilding your home or repairing damage to its structure or its fixtures and fittings. While cover varies between providers, you’ll generally be able to claim if your home’s damaged by

  • Vandalism
  • Subsidence
  • Fire, smoke and explosions
  • Water from leaking pipes or from external flooding
  • Falling trees
  • Vehicle collisions into your property
  • Storms and adverse weather

Should you get buildings insurance?

88% of homeowners have buildings insurance1. You’ll need it if

  • Your home is mortgaged – it’ll usually be a condition of the mortgage
  • You live in a flat and own the freehold – this could be individually or jointly with other tenants in the block. If you only own the leasehold, it’s usually the landlord’s responsibility
  • You’re a landlord renting out a property that you own

If you’re renting, you won’t need buildings insurance, though you may want to consider taking out contents insurance.
You’re free to choose your own provider based on what you need.

Things to consider

The amount of cover you need

How much would it cost to rebuild your home? This isn’t the same as the value of your home were you to sell it so you’ll need to work it out. Use the Association of British Insurers’ rebuild calculator – you’ll need to register with them but it’s free to use.

Not all policies will need the rebuild value – some offer an unlimited sum insured, though there are likely to be exclusions, which you’ll need to check before you buy your policy.

What exclusions should I look out for?

The majority of home insurance policies will have exclusions, ie things that aren’t covered. To avoid having a claim turned down, read the policy wording to see what’s covered and what’s not before choosing your policy. For example, garden fences blown down in a storm and fitted kitchen appliances, particularly boilers – some policies cover this while others won’t, or will have it as an optional extra.

Many policies won’t cover homes with thatched roofs as standard. If you have a thatched roof, it’s crucial you check before choosing a policy – most standard insurance will be for properties built from bricks with tiled roofs. It’s important that you tell your insurer what materials your home’s built from as it’ll affect your premium and the level of cover they’ll provide.

A key element to check for is accidental damage – is it included as standard? Only 52% of UK homeowners have accidental damage cover1, yet it accounts for around a quarter of buildings claims enquires received at Barclays. It covers things like broken windows, cracked basins and damaged pipes. If you don’t have accidental damage cover in place, these types of claims may be declined and you’ll need to foot the bill yourself.

What you want to insure

If you want boiler cover with your buildings cover, see if it’s included as standard or available as an add-on. Not all policies offer boiler cover, though some do and will also include annual servicing.

If you think building work may be a possibility in the future, eg an extension or a loft conversion, check to see if your policy will allow for this. Some policies will be invalid if you’re having building work done, while others allow for a certain amount of cover during this time. Either way, if you have any building work carried out on your property, you must tell your insurer.

Another key thing to consider is the location of your property – for example, if you live in an area that’s prone to flooding, you’ll need to ensure you have adequate cover, and it may make your premiums more expensive.

How the excess works

The excess on an insurance policy is a minimum amount you’ll need to pay if you make a claim. You can adjust the excess on some policies, though generally speaking, a lower excess means a higher premium. It’s worth considering which is preferable – you’ll need to assess whether you’d be able to pay it if you needed to make a claim and also whether it’d be worth it – for example, a successful claim for £300 with a £250 excess would result in just £50 from your insurer.

Maintain your property

Insurers expect a reasonable amount of general property maintenance, so make sure you look after your home.

  • Keep brickwork free from rot and weeds – ivy-covered cottages may look beautiful but the roots can eat into the mortar and cause walls to collapse
  • Make sure your gutters and drains are free from debris like fallen leaves, and do what you can to prevent drain blockage, including not washing fat down the sink or flushing things down the toilet that are likely to cause blockages
  • Keep an eye on your roof and secure any loose tiles or slates
  • Have boilers serviced annually
  • Install smoke alarms if you don’t have them and check the batteries regularly
  • Make sure your water tank is fit for purpose and not likely to burst

Barclays buildings insurance

Our home insurance provides unlimited rebuild and repair costs for properties with 5 bedrooms or fewer. We’ll still cover you for larger properties but you’ll need to know the rebuild cost.

If you’d also like to know more about contents insurance and what it covers, our Guide to contents insurance has details.