05 Apr 2016

How insurable is your dream home?

Andrew Reardon, Senior Selfbuild Account Handler at self-build insurance policy expert ProAktive Selfbuild, explains the risks of opting for non-traditional construction methods when it comes to insuring your property in the future.

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It’s certainly an exciting time picking the design of your build and fine tuning it. Choosing what materials will make up your new home from the ground upwards is crucial but have you thought about what implications your choices will have not only on your self-build insurance but on your home insurance for years to come?

Insurance companies have centuries of experience of certain materials such as brick, stone, concrete and even cob and wattle and daub. However over the past few years construction types have changed significantly and we are seeing more and more of ICF, SIPS, timber frame and the use of non-ferrous metals such as zinc.

The experience an insurer has with a risk impacts on its ability to underwrite it, so newer types of construction can make them a little nervous.

If we take the fire risk as probably the best example, standard construction types such as brick don’t burn, so the integrity of the property remains largely unaffected. Compare that with an ICF build or insulated concrete form, the typical build we see would be a timber frame and ICF on the outer skin. The ICF would be made of a polystyrene outer, concrete inner and then either rendered or timber clad. In addition we often see additional insulation being used such as wool or paper.

If we take those elements and add them together we have timber, polystyrene, timber and paper – all very combustible elements. Now some of these elements will be treated which will slow down the effects of fire but compare that to a brick built property and you have two very different risks. While it may not affect your self-build insurance, as that is relatively short term, your standard household insurers are very likely to charge much more for a build with non-standard construction.

Other construction types that will impact on your insurance will be flat roofs for example, as they are prone to leaking in future years. Zinc can impact on self-build insurance due to its attractiveness to thieves so think about on-site storage or if possible have it delivered and fitted on the same day. Thatch properties can also be difficult to insure as many insurers will not consider them.

Before deciding on what course to take, contact your insurer and ask what they would do. You don’t want to build a beautiful new home only to find the insurance for it is unaffordable.

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