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Last updated: 01 November 2021
In this guide we explore self-build insurance to help you understand if it's going to be the right thing for you.
What is self-build insurance?
A self-build project carries with it the advantage of assembling your dream home to your precise specifications, though hopefully within budget. Often they can end up costing less than buying a fully functioning house.
The difficulty is, a self-build project carries with it a certain level of inherent danger, and more can go wrong than with the average house purchase. For that reason, a standard home insurance policy won’t be valid. Instead, you’ll need a specialist self-build insurance policy that covers work sites, potential injury and theft of work tools and materials.
Use our comparison tool to search for self-build and all other types of buildings insurance.
How does self-build insurance work?
Self-build insurance is a type of policy that insures properties under construction. It is different from new-build insurance, which covers properties on larger development projects.
Self-build insurance, also known as contract works insurance, is a lot like a standard home insurance policy, but also extends to cover the unique risks and responsibilities associated with building a property to spec.
Unlike standard policies, which traditionally last a year, self-build insurance policies usually last 18 months. The hope is that by the end of this period, your property will be finished. This is of course not a certainty, and providers will allow for an extension where necessary.
Once your property is finished you can opt for a standard home building and contents cover, though you’ll also want to look at getting a structural home warranty to protect against any structural defects that arise within the first 10 years.
What’s covered by self-build home insurance?
As ever, the precise details of a policy will differ between providers, but you will typically be covered in the event of:
- Damage from fire, flood and storm: Given that building sites have by definition less structural integrity to protect them from natural disasters, they are more susceptible to this sort of damage
- Theft: Again, a lack of doors and windows make it easier for thieves to come in in the dead of night and steal expensive equipment. Self-build insurance will protect your belongings as well as anything owned or rented by the contractors that gets left on site. Your insurer will, however, stipulate that you set up extra security measures
- Employer liability: Your contracted workforce will become your employees for the duration of the build. Employer Liability protects you in the event that one of them is injured or killed on site. You should look for cover of around £10 million
- Public liability: Any third party or member of the public is your responsibility as soon as they step foot onto your building site, even if they’re trespassing. You should look for cover of up to £5 million for this
- Joint Contracts Tribunal Clause 21.2.1 Insurance: This covers you in the event that your build disrupts or damages the surrounding properties, for example by subsidence, vibration, collapse, heave, removal of support or lowering of groundwater. You won’t necessarily need this insurance as it depends on the area that you’re building in. But it’s best to check in with your contractors
What is classed as a non-standard build?
For the more creatively minded and deep-pocketed amongst you, you may well be considering an architecturally experimental project. A non-standard build essentially means anything that isn’t constructed from brick or stone with a slate or tile roof.
Insurers often freak when they hear of your glass-box dream house, meaning it’ll cost more to insure both during and after construction. It’s not impossible to get, it’s just more expensive, mainly because:
- It likely costs more to replace or repair any damaged parts
- Atypical materials (such as 400-year-old wood floors) are going to need ongoing maintenance
- Repair work will likely have to be carried out by a specialist (aka expensive) tradesperson
How do I ensure my home is properly insured post construction?
In most cases, once you’ve finished your build or reconstruction, you will be able to get a standard home insurance policy to cover building and contents. That is, provided it’s been signed off by a builder and has the appropriate planning permission documentation. If your build is a little bit more experimental, then your premiums are likely to reflect that.
Given these homes are by definition untested, you will want to get a structural home warranty, which lasts 10 years and covers you in case of any unforeseen structural defects, including the cost of chasing after the contractors who completed the faulty work.
When looking for insurance, it’s important to compare prices and T&Cs from different providers, to make sure you’re getting the best deal for you and your new home. Use our price comparison tool to find the right home insurance for you.