Checking your home for problems and home maintenance
This is also a useful checklist of things to look out for if you are considering buying or renting a property.
Some home improvements must be made by a professionally qualified person. If you need a professional repair, check our advice on finding a reputable builder, plumber or electrician
Chimney and chimney pots
Make sure they are not leaning or broken. Damaged or loose pots can fall in strong winds and damage the roof or injure a passer by. Check for any damaged bricks. Water can get in and cause damp if the mortar between the bricks is loose or missing. Also make sure the flue is not blocked - this could create a build up of poisonous gas.
Check for missing, cracked or slipped slates or tiles. Broken or badly fitting slates or tiles can allow water in. Flashing prevents water getting in around chimneys and dormer windows. Make sure flashing is not loose or missing.
Gutters, downpipes and oveflows
Even a small water leak or blockage will damage bricks, rot wood and cause damp if not repaired quickly. Check gutters are not silted up. If overflow pipes are leaking it means that a water tank or toilet cistern is not working properly. Repair it quickly before it causes any damage or damp. If your water is metered, it will also be costing money!
Check the mortar between the bricks, if it's damaged or crumbling, water can get in and it may cause damp. Check for cracks, if they suddenly appear or get much worse, get advice from a surveyor immediately - it could be a structural problem. Airbricks help to stop floors rotting by allowing air to circulate underneath. Make sure they are not blocked with soil or new paving and keep them clear and clean. Most buildings have a waterproof layer called a damp proof course to stop rising damp. Make sure that the earth or paving is kept 150mm (six inches) below this course or you may get damp walls and crumbling internal plaster work.
Doors and windows
If you have wooden doors and windows, these will rot if they are not properly protected, so make sure paint or varnish is not cracked, loose or peeling. Cracked glass can be dangerous and should be replaced. Make sure window frames are sound and windows open safely.Also make sure that putty and glazing bars are sound.
Check that each of your drains has a grating on the top and that waste pipes pour into them properly. Ensure that they are emptying properly. Where possible, waste pipes should discharge below the gully grating level - if this is not the case, make sure your grating is kept clear of leaves and waste.
Fences and garden sheds
Treat wooden sheds and fences regularly with a wood preservative.
Roof space or attic
- check timbers for holes or powdery timber - this could mean woodworm
- check for damp or rotted timbers or dampness on the underside of slates - this could indicate leaking roof or a plumbing leak
- check that your roof isn't sagging or bowed and that you don't have open joints between timbers. This could indicate that the timbers are overloaded if slates have been replaced with tiles and additional support will be required - seek advice immediately from an engineer or surveyor
- check for damp in the chimney stack - this could indicate a problem with the pots/brickwork/flaunchings
- check for holes in floorboards or powdery timber - this could mean woodworm
- creaking floorboards could mean loose or missing nails or rotten timber underneath - check joints and wall plates
- damp floorboards could be rising damp (on the ground floor) or a leak
- check under your bath and sinks for dampness
Walls and ceilings
- if you have damp walls, it could be a plumbing leak, condensation, rising damp or penetrating damp
- a damp patch at top of chimney breast could be defective flashing between the chimney and roof covering, defective brickwork in the chimney stack above the roof, or an unventilated flue
- cracked or loose plaster could just be shrinkage in new building materials or differential movement between components. However, it may also mean that your plaster needs replacing or indicate a potential structural fault
- sagging or cracked ceiling could indicate overloading or that your ceiling plaster or ceiling itself needs replacing
Water, gas, electricity, heating
- a dripping tap means a faulty tap or washer, or your tap could need re-seating
- overflow pipe dripping could be a faulty or dirty ball valve mechanism
- knocking or banging from pipe work could be due to excess pressure or an airlock or could indicate a lack of support to the pipes or inadequate thermal movement
- boilers, gas fires, gas cookers - get these serviced annually and include a carbon monoxide test. Also beware of a change in the colour of the flame.
- check radiators for efficiency - they will need bleeding if the top is hot and the bottom cool, or vice versa. If the problems persists, get a heating and ventilation engineer to look at your system
- electricity - check your sockets, cables for any excess warmth and replace any cracked sockets. Check the plugs on major appliances - if fuses blow frequently, this indicates a problem
Find out more about energy efficiency in your home.
Check the function and batteries once a week, and gently vacuum inside twice a year. Find out more about fire safety in your home.
The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015
- information for landlords and tenants
These regulations came into force on 1st October 2015 and landlords now have to ensure that there is a smoke alarm at each storey of their properties and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room where there is a solid fuel burning appliance. They also have to ensure that the alarms are checked and in proper working order at the start of each new tenancy. More information is available on the Gov.uk website
Go back to our page on home improvement advice and information.