Your comprehensive home maintenance guide

An unfortunate reality for most Australians is that severe weather events are becoming more frequent. This means you’ll need to take proactive steps to protect yourself, your loved ones, and the life you’ve built within your home. Doing regular maintenance around your property could reduce your chances of loss or damage to your home, as well as assisting to streamline your home and contents insurance claims process in the event the worst happens, according to Hollard, our insurer for general insurance. 

The Real Home and Contents Insurance team has shared what you need to know about home care and home repairs below.

Why is home maintenance important? 

Without regular home maintenance, your house can slowly start to deteriorate over time. This not only means that the property may look rundown, but it could also put you in danger if there’s a severe weather event and your home isn’t in a sturdy enough condition to protect you and your belongings. 

While there are lots of general things you can do around your home, here are the top maintenance issues that are usually identified when an insurance claim is being reviewed:

  • Gutter overflowing as it is blocked and hasn’t been cleaned.
  • Damage due to weather to the Whirlybird ventilation system.
  • Foot trafficking on roof, which refers to the number of people that have walked on the roof, either during installation or repairs.
  • Cracked or chipped roof tiles.
  • Rotted or deteriorated fencing.

General maintenance  

Carrying out general maintenance in your home is actually something you need to do in order to maintain your insurance policy. Failure to do so could mean your claim is rejected in the event of damage. Your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) will outline what ‘reasonable steps’ the homeowner needs to do to keep the building and contents in a good state of repair, but here are some of the steps they might ask you to take:

  • Ensure the building is watertight, structurally sound and secure.
  • Ensure that gutters, downpipes and roof valleys are not clogged with debris or rusted, loose, falling or missing.
  • Ensure floors, walls and ceilings are intact and secure, and that any damage to these items and any other parts of the building that are not the subject of a claim under this policy are repaired.
  • Comply with all statutory obligations, government or local authority regulations and by-laws.
  • Ensure building maintenance or repairs to the building and/or contents are undertaken by an appropriately qualified person or licensed tradesmen.

Monthly home maintenance checks 

Sometimes it can make life easier if you have a set list of things to do every month. While it may not be necessary to do the following tasks every month of the year, it’s a good idea to keep a list handy and take care of each item as needed:

  • Regular housecleaning to prevent mould, staining and pest infestation.
  • Replace lightbulbs.
  • Check taps and showerheads to remove mineral deposits.
  • Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Inspect sinks, drains and baths to remove debris, unclog if necessary.
  • Inspect electrical cords for wear and tear.
  • Clean kitchen exhaust fan and oven.
  • Remove lint from dryer vents and washing machine.
  • Check washing machine, taps, toilets, and dishwasher for leaks.
  • Service your pool and water-supply pumps.
  • Check eaves, walls, and floors for holes, which could provide entry points for pests or water.
  • Inspect trees to determine whether they pose a threat to foundations, overhead power lines, plumbing, roofing, or retaining walls.
  • Run water and flush toilets in unused spaces. This mostly applies to guest bathrooms or sinks/taps you don’t use regularly.
  • Prune trees and shrubs around your property.

Home maintenance checks for weather events 

As the seasons change, so too does the weather – and it sometimes brings potentially dangerous events. From summer bushfires to cold winters that can damage parts of your home, here’s what to focus on.

Staying safe during bushfire season 

You’ll want to carry out home maintenance in October/November to prepare for the summer bushfire season in Australia. Depending on where you live, you may need to do the following more frequently and even at other times of the year:

  • Remove leaves and debris from gutters, inspect roofing for leaks and missing, loose or damaged tiles.
  • Make sure long hoses are easily accessible.
  • Make sure any flammable fuels and chemicals are safely stored.
  • Cut back gardens and surrounding trees.
  • Be aware of your region’s bushfire history.
  • Create a family fire plan.
  • Back up photos to the cloud.
  • If possible, store important documents offsite or in a specific place to take in an evacuation (passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, adoption papers, wills, insurance details, bank and superannuation details).
  • Review your insurance policy for fire cover.
  • Stay informed of weather events in your area.

Protect your home from storms and flooding 

Storm/flood maintenance isn’t restricted to a certain part of the year, as they can happen at any time. Stay vigilant about weather warnings, and make sure the following tasks are attended to around your home:

  • Remove leaves and debris from gutters, inspect roofing for leaks and missing, loose or damaged tiles.
  • Check your area for flood risk.
  • Reinforce windows and doors, using gap filler where required.
  • Where possible, make sure all electrical components – including circuit breakers, wiring, sockets and switches – are elevated.
  • Have a professional ensure your sump pump is in good working order.
  • If possible, move valuables to higher levels in the property.
  • Set up an emergency plan.
  • Back up photos to the cloud.
  • If possible, store important documents offsite or in a specific place to take in an evacuation (passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, adoption papers, wills, insurance details, bank and superannuation details).
  • Review your insurance policy for flood cover.
  • If flooding is likely, use sandbags to protect your property.
  • Stay informed of weather events in your area.

Annual home maintenance checks 

At least once a year, it’s a good idea to give your house a thorough clean. That means a proper clean-out of your appliances, a deep clean of things like windows, floors and blinds, as well as ongoing maintenance of all surfaces to avoid any build-up of grime.

Here are some other tasks you should do annually:

  • Fix cracks and gaps in your driveway, stairs or walkways.
  • Check for cracks and gaps in windows and doors.
  • Power-wash windows and your home’s exterior.
  • Flush out hot water from the water heater to remove accumulated sediment.
  • Have a professional inspect air conditioners and heating systems.
  • Have a professional inspect on-site septic tanks.
  • Have a professional clean and optimise solar panels.
  • Vacuum your refrigerator coils. Check the temperature in your refrigerator and if required, defrost your freezer.
  • Clean fireplaces and chimneys.
  • Upgrade your security and repair deteriorated fencing.
  • Polish wood furniture and dust light fixtures.
  • Declutter and clean out your closet, and why not donate items you no longer use.

Further down the track, you may need to replace your carpet (as necessary), reseal timber or stone floors, as well as check sealants and caulking in wet areas in your bathroom and laundry.

Why is home maintenance important for a home insurance claim? 

Simply put, if your home is not well maintained and any issues arise as a result, it can slow down your claims process and even result in your claim being rejected. This is because your policy is an agreement you’ve made with the provider. Failing to maintain your home can potentially impact whether or not your claim is accepted – so it pays to stay on top of things!

What is covered under home insurance? 

Be aware that home maintenance and general wear and tear are not usually covered by home insurance. You may need to take out specific insurance to get the cover you’re after, so always refer to the PDS to find out exactly what is and isn’t covered under your policy.

Protect your home

No house stays in a perfect condition forever, but you care for it throughout the year to maintain its structure and improve your living conditions. Keeping a well-maintained home is more enjoyable to live in, and it can make your home and contents insurance claims process easier, should the need arise. 

If you don’t have home insurance or you’re thinking about switching, see if Real Insurance suits your needs. You can get a quote online today or call us on 1300 620 269 to find out more.