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Major DIY mistakes that can affect insurance

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

Owning a home is a very rewarding experience for most people. Homeowners have the ultimate freedom to decorate, landscape and remodel without needing approval from anyone else. But sometimes, a well-intentioned remodel can have negative impacts on insurance.

A survey from Trulia found that home remodeling is on the rise. Roughly 90 percent of homeowners have plans to remodel their home at some point in time. To save money, many people try to complete renovations and remodeling on their own, rather than hiring a professional.

DIY home projects can be a good option. However, DIY projects are often much more complicated than they appear on TV and in magazines. If you make a mistake, it can come with consequences, such as a higher insurance premium. 

In this article, we’ll lay out some of the most common DIY mistakes that can affect your insurance and explain how to avoid them.

DIY Mistakes That Impact Your Insurance Rates

1. Failing to get the right permits—or any permits at all

When you hire a professional contractor, they are legally required to obtain work permits from your local government. When you’re doing a DIY project yourself, the same standard applies.

Permits are required for DIY home projects for a few reasons. A permit protects the person doing the work against fines or penalties as it ensures you’re not breaking codes or laws, and it tells your city who is liable if a repair results in some type of loss. Most importantly, permits are usually required by a homeowner’s insurance company.

When you’re doing a DIY job, like updating plumbing or electrical work, there’s an increased risk for home insurance claims if you make a mistake. 

Without a permit and licensed contractor, the insurer considers that the homeowner is being negligent, and insurers never pay out claims resulting from negligence. Your coverage could even get cancelled. 

If you fail to get a permit for your DIY project, and you have to file a home insurance claim due to a mistake, it could be extremely costly. Not only will you have to pay out-of-pocket for the loss, but filing a claim can cause your insurance premium to increase significantly.

2. Working in an unsafe environment

If you have minimal experience as a DIY contractor, you may not be taking the necessary safety precautions. According to the CDC, 500,000 people are treated every year for ladder injuries. Other safety hazards, like failing to wear hardhats, safety goggles, or failing to protect yourself from paint fumes, can hurt you or others in your household.

From an insurance standpoint, it’s important to have the right type of coverage before starting a DIY home project. “Another consideration is your liability protection if friends or family (who aren’t covered under your policy) help you work on a DIY project. If someone gets hurt, you may be responsible for their medical bills or get involved in a lawsuit. Make sure you have enough liability included with your home insurance or have a separate personal umbrella liability policy to protect your finances,” says financial advisor Laura Adams.

If you have to file a home insurance claim following a loss, an increase in cost of home insurance is not the only thing you should keep in mind. If you get injured while working on a DIY project, it could also affect your health insurance premium if the project results in chronic problems or expensive medical bills.  

3. Measuring Once

Any professional DIY-er knows this rule of thumb—measure twice, cut once. But in an attempt to save time, many people fail to follow this rule when it comes to home projects. When you’re hanging drywall, putting in walls, floors, cabinets, or pipes, it’s always best to err on the side of taking longer to complete the project. Remodeling with this idea in mind can save you from making serious mistakes.

Being accurate is especially important if you’ve failed to plan or measure something essential, like a load bearing wall or modifications to your roof. If you install an important feature with the wrong dimensions, it can lead to a number of issues, and you guessed it—additional homeowners insurance claims.

For example, say you replace your roof, and a few shingles don’t quite sit flush with the frame of the house. After a major rainstorm, you may notice there is water damage and mold in the attic space. You can file a home insurance claim for the water damage, but when the insurance company finds out you made a mistake with the roof repair, your claim may likely be denied.

4. Using the wrong tools and materials

Another common DIY home project mistake is not using the correct tools and materials for the job. Unless you contact the original home builder, it can be tricky to determine exactly which materials were used for things like the roof and ceiling.

Generally, using the wrong tools or materials isn’t the end of the world—assuming the job is done correctly. However, the materials you use (or don’t use) could have an impact on the value of your home, in addition to overall quality and consistency of repairs, which could cause your insurance premium to change.

Here’s an example. Say you decide to replace your metal roof because it’s getting older, but you want to cut costs and opt to use a plastic material instead. Metal roofs are considered very durable, so it’s cheaper to insure a home with a metal roof than it is to insure a home with a plastic roof.

If your insurance company finds out that you’ve swapped your metal roof for a plastic one, it could cause your insurance premium to increase. In that case, it ends up being cheaper to invest the money in a new metal roof to avoid the rate hike. Combining new and existing materials can have a similar effect.

How to Prevent DIY Disasters

It can be fun to take on DIY projects, but we’re not all HGTV-qualified. Before you embark on a DIY home project, it’s important to take preventative measures to avoid disasters. The first order of business should be to contact your insurance company.

Laura Adams suggests, “Before you start a substantial do-it-yourself home project, it’s critical to communicate with your insurance company or representative about your plans. You may need to adjust your amount of homeowners coverage or even get an additional type of insurance for the duration of the project.”

Here are some ways that you can prevent a DIY home project disaster:

  • Hire a contractor, or consult with a professional before starting the work
  • Research your planned project carefully
  • Practice the skills you’ll need to do the job right
  • Prioritize safety by investing in the right equipment and protective gear
  • Consult with your insurance company about your planned work

The takeaway

  • DIY home projects can be fun and affordable, but they come with risks
  • If you make a mistake, you might have to file a home insurance claim, which will increase your rate
  • Before you start a DIY project, know the common mistakes and take the necessary steps to avoid them

Regular home maintenance and repairs are one of the hidden costs of homeownership, so going the DIY route often seems like the cheapest option. But even the smallest error could result in losing far more money than what it would have cost to hire a professional to begin with. Before you jump on the DIY bandwagon, make sure you know what the common project errors are and how they can potentially affect your insurance rate. When in doubt, hire a professional.

Elizabeth Rivelli

Elizabeth is an insurance writer for coverage.com, where she covers insurance providers and reviews policies to help consumers find comprehensive and affordable coverage for every area of their life. She has more than three years of writing experience for top online insurance and finance publications.

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