Maintenance tips, page 1

The Cover Plus the Care

Home Maintenance Tips Cover

Your home is probably the most valuable asset you have. Protecting and caring for it should be a priority.

Defence Service Homes Insurance is designed to provide you with home and contents insurance policies that give you the protection your house needs, but also to help you ensure that your home stays in tip-top condition, ready to serve you well for the years to come. It's the cover and the care you want and deserve.

This guide to maintaining your home will help you protect your asset and put into place regular, routine maintenance that won't take up too much time, but will extend the life of your house.

Deterioration can happen fast and can affect the value of your home as well as your safety. All insurance policies require that you keep your home in good order and repair, so if damage to your home is due to wear and tear, it may affect the assessment of your claim.

The condition of your home also affects its value. It's important to make sure your home keeps its value so your investment is protected. If you feel that the maintenance of your home is getting on top of you, give the Department of Veterans' Affairs Home Maintenance Helpline a call on 1800 80 1945 - they are happy to offer advice on repairs and maintenance and help with trade experts. They will also provide you with the names of contractors if there are repairs you need to complete on your home.

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Further information

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Regularly check your roof tiles (cement and terracotta) for cracking, lifting or any type of movement. The roof's bedding and pointing (or mortar) might have an average life of 10 to 15 years, but if your house is exposed to the elements, or there is general soil movement around your house, this may further reduce the life of bedding and pointing.

Moss growing on tiles is not usually a problem, unless the growth is very heavy and it washes into the gutters and causes a blockage.

Metal and lead flashings need regular checks for fatigue, rust and other signs of deterioration. Metal roofs can lift at the laps and joints allowing water to get inside. Rust on metal roofs can also be a problem as it destroys the protective surface coating and reduces the life of the roof.

Roof damage can be checked quickly by looking through the internal roof space. Light will filter through any defects, holes or openings.

Corrugated iron roof sheets should be fixed with screws rather than nails: nails are more likely to pull out again.

If you need help or advice, check with a tradesperson or roofing specialist. Don't attempt to climb up on your roof unless you have someone to assist you with a ladder, or to call for help in an emergency. Walking on tiles and metal can easily cause damage and climbing on wet roofs is very dangerous. If you have any doubts, call the Veterans' Home Maintenance Helpline for advice.

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Gutters and downpipes

Check gutters and downpipes regularly for blockages, rust and other signs of deterioration. Blocked drains caused by leaves or even tennis balls can cause overflows and flooding back into the roof cavity.

Try to check your gutters and downpipes every three months or more frequently if you have overhanging trees or shrubs. Prune trees and shrubs away from the roof and remove any loose bedding or pointing to reduce the time you need to spend clearing away debris.

Gutters and downpipes that are left blocked will fill up with water and start to rust. In heavy rain, that could even cause damage to the inside of your house.

Protect against fire

Kitchen fires are one of the biggest risks of damage to property and many start because fat or oil catches alight after being over heated. Safe cooking will greatly reduce the risk of an accident - always watch your pots and pans while they are on the heat and while using the grill, stove or hotplate, be careful not to leave it unattended. Replace saucepan deep fryers with an electric deep fryer.

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If a fire does occur in your kitchen, it will rapidly spread to other areas of the house unless it can be quickly contained. Install a dry chemical fire extinguisher and keep a fire blanket within easy reach. Contact your local fire brigade for advice and a visit to check your home for fire safety.

Check electrical appliances

Never use damaged electrical appliances or electric leads. As your appliances grow older, they should be checked and repaired by a qualified electrician or tradesperson to make sure they are safe to use. Frayed electrical cords and circuits overloaded with double adaptors are a high risk. A qualified expert should also check electric fans and dryers that are more than ten years old.

Safety switches and circuit breakers are a great safety investment. Get some advice on installation and operation to make sure they are working.

Smokers beware

Smoking in bed, and old or poorly maintained electric blankets are the most common causes of fire in the bedroom. Always turn off electric blankets and store them flat over the summer when they are not in use. Never smoke in bed - bedding and furnishings are highly flammable and often give off toxic fumes when burning.

Install smoke detectors

Smoke detectors are essential in any home and are one of the best ways of alerting you to a fire, especially if you're asleep when smoke inhalation is more likely to kill than flames. Your local fire brigade will be happy to advise on the best type of smoke detector to use, and the best locations for detectors throughout your house.

Smoke detectors can be wired into your home's electrical cabling or you can install a battery operated model. Remember to check the life span of the battery and ensure you have a reminder in place to check and replace it.

More maintenance tips on page 2.