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Keeping your home in good repair

Carrying out routine maintenance to your home will ensure your property keeps its value and can help prevent unexpected and expensive repair bills. This page lists things you should look out for and explains how to find a contractor and what to do if you aren't happy with the repair work.

To make sure your home stays in good condition, it's important to inspect it at least once a year, to check for any damage. If you repair this damage early on, it could save you a lot of time, trouble and expense in the future. You can download a checklist of things to look for when inspecting your home.

Roofs and roofing grants

Repairs to the roof can be very expensive, so keep an eye out for any damage and make sure you put it right as soon as possible. Remember to check the roof after any storms, high winds or heavy rain. Don't go up onto the roof itself as this can actually cause damage. Look at the roof from outside your home, using binoculars if possible.

Look out for any loose or missing slates or tiles, and check the attic or roof space to make sure no water has leaked through. If you think the roof may be damaged or leaking, don't try to fix it yourself - call in a professional roofing contractor for their opinion. Make sure they are a member of the Confederation of Roofing Contractors or the National Federation of Roofing Contractors. There are a number of grants available in Scotland for homeowners for help in paying for roof repairs, more info can be found on the Scottish government website - Gov.scot.

Chimneys

While you're checking the roof, make sure the chimney isn't cracked or coming loose. Call in a chimney specialist if you notice any problems. If you have an open fire, the chimney should be swept about once a year, to avoid dangerous blockages and damage.

Drainage

If your gutters or downpipes become blocked, this can lead to leaks and can damage the walls of your home. If there are plants growing in the gutters or damp patches on the wall, this may indicate a blockage. Clean out the gutters at least once a year if you can, or call a guttering service to do this for you.

Make sure drains are clearing properly as well - it's a good idea to check this after heavy rain. Clear any rubbish, leaves or plants from the drains regularly.

Walls

If you have an external finish on your walls, such as rendering or harling, make sure it's kept in good condition. If the walls are made from brick or stone, check that the mortar isn't eroding - this can lead to damp in your home. If it is, you'll need to get the mortar replaced (this is called repointing) - you'll need to call in a builder for this.

If you discover any cracks in the walls, don't panic. These are often caused by settlement and are quite normal. However, if a crack becomes noticeably wider or goes through the stone and mortar of the wall, call in a builder or surveyor for advice.

External paintwork

It's important to keep paintwork on external wooden surfaces in good condition, to ensure that the wood doesn't rot. It will probably need repainting every five to seven years.

Damp

Damp can be a serious problem in your home. It can ruin interior and exterior décor, cause the growth of moulds and fungi and can result in wood rot and damage to the structure of your home. It can also be dangerous to your health, causing respiratory conditions such as asthma.

Tackling condensation

Damp can be caused by condensation from cooking and washing. Make sure your home has adequate ventilation in the kitchen and bathroom and anywhere you dry laundry, for example by installing an extractor fan or simply just opening a window. You can also try lining windowsills with absorbent strips and placing silica containers in places that attract moisture, such as windowsills and kitchen cupboards - you can buy these containers in any DIY store. You could also invest in a dehumidifier.

If you notice any dampness or mould inside your home, don't just paint over it and hope it will go away. This will only make the problem worse. Instead, you need to tackle the cause of the problem. Check the roof, walls, drainage system, windows and plumbing for leaks. If you can't find any, the problem may lie with your damp proof course.

Damp proof courses stop moisture rising up from the ground into your home. All new houses should have a damp proof course, but if your home is very old, it may not, or it may no longer work effectively.

Talk to an expert if you are concerned about damp in your home - there are lots of ways of dealing with damp, and the sooner you tackle the problem, the less it will cost. Make sure the contractor you speak to is registered with the British Wood Preserving and Damp-proofing Association (BWPDA) - use their website to find a contractor near you.

Gas and electricity

You should get a gas safety check carried out by a Gas Safe Register engineer at least once a year. Electrical systems should be checked once every ten years.

Finding a contractor

When you're looking for a contractor to carry out building or repair work, make sure you follow our essential do's and don'ts:

  • DO ask around to see if anyone you know can recommend a contractor they've used in the past.
  • DON'T hire anyone you don't trust. If you don't feel comfortable about a contractor or company, find somebody else.
  • DO make sure the contractor you choose is a member of a reputable trade association such as the Federation of Master Builders, the Scottish Decorators' Federation or the Scottish & Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers' Federation (SNIPEF) .
  • DON'T allow yourself to be pressurised by sales people.
  • DO get at least three written estimates, although remember that this is only an estimate, and the actual cost may be more or less than this.
  • DON'T agree to pay cash without a VAT receipt - you won't have any comeback if things go wrong.
  • DO ask for a warranty, in case there are problems with the work later on.
  • DON'T pay up until you're satisfied that the work has been completed.

The page on planning building work has more information on:

  • finding a builder
  • avoiding problems
  • understanding building jargon.

Paying for repairs

Insurance

If your home needs repairs carried out, you should always check whether the work is covered by your buildings insurance. This may be the case if the damage was caused by:

  • fire, storms, earthquakes or floods
  • leaking or burst water pipes
  • subsidence, heave and landslip
  • vandals.

Grants and loans

You may be able to get a grant to help cover the cost of repairs, adaptations or improvements. The section on help to pay for repairs has more information.

What if things go wrong?

If you're not happy with the way repairs or improvements are being done, your first step should be to speak to the contractor to try and sort things out. If this doesn't work, send a letter of complaint. If the problem still isn't resolved, you can try complaining to the trade association the contractor belongs to.

Contact an adviser at your local Citizens Advice or trading standards office for further advice.

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
Get advice if you're England

The important points

  • It's important to inspect your home at least once a year.
  • Remember damp can be caused by condensation from cooking and washing, so make sure you air your home properly. 
  • Get a gas safety check carried out by a Gas Safe Register engineer at least once a year. 
  • Electrics should be checked once every ten years.

If you're still looking for help, try searching, or find out how to contact us

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